There’s been much discussion in the comics community about the New 52 “#0” issues, and so I decided I’d try to get a few of them read and reviewed for the website. I thought of them as another chance to get started with a new series and also some extra information and back-story for series I’ve already read a good deal of and enjoyed. I wasn’t able to get as many as I was interested in, but I’ll keep trying to find more (I just don’t have as much time as I used to, when the New 52 were first launched). I’ll certainly attempt to get the #0 issues for some of the series I never tried, but always wanted to (the Green Lantern series, for example, of which I’ve tried none; and also Flash; and a selection of others).
What I would say, though, is that these issues don’t all appear to work as proper introductions – a few of them lay out future storylines, or make allusion to events that have already happened in the main series chronology. In addition, there are some more revelations about how the New 52 is meant to be interpreted – especially on the Batman side of things, which appears to have been rather messed up by these zero issues… (which Newsarama has compiled in a handy post).
Reviewed: Action Comics, Batgirl, Batman, Batman & Robin, Batwoman, Catwoman, Detective Comics, Green Arrow, Justice League, Nightwing, Phantom Stranger, Superboy, Supergirl, Wonder Woman
Writer: Grant Morrison | Artist: Ben Oliver | Colours: Brian Reber
Back-Up, “Origin of the Species”: Writer: Sholly Fisch | Artist: Cafu | Colours: Jay David Ramos
Don’t miss “The Boy Who Stole Superman’s Cape” – Grant Morrison weaves the history of Clark Kent’s early days in Metropolis!
In this prequel issue, Clark is getting his blue t-shirts made (see the cover, and the first handful of Action Comics issues). He’s also given the job at the Daily Planet, moves out of Jimmy’s apartment and settles into a new life as a bachelor in his own place. Then he cockily tries to stop a kidnapping of some sort, and is blown off the building by a bad-guy with a bazooka.
If that’s not bad enough, a kid steals his cape while he’s knocked out in an alley (the cheeky scamp).
This is actually a pretty good story, which Morrison manages to keep restrained and on-point. Why can’t more of his comics be like this? It’s devoid of silliness, poignant and quite well done, with a very nice ending to round things off.
This issue has been put together with some really great artwork. As you can see in the samples (more-or-less), the art has an almost sepia tone to give it a slightly aged, look. I think it looks fantastic – there are a couple of moments when it appeared as if the artistic team had gone over-board with details, and some strange shading and colour-choices looked a bit off, but taking a close look at the comic suggests it may have been a printing error.
The back-up story was ok, but I have to be honest and say that I don’t really have an idea of what it was about or who these characters actually are… There’s perhaps another Kryptonian? Some random other Superman-esque alien, like the Meteor Freaks from Smallville? I am very confused. It was very nicely composed and put-together, though.
How did Barbara first become Batgirl? What led to her to don the cape and cowl? Witness Barbara Gordon’s shocking injury and her inspiring drive to recover and walk again!
This issue takes us back pretty far in Barbara Gordon’s evolution from daughter-of-a-cop to a more-or-less independent vigilante of the extended Bat-family. Things start off with Barbara still very young, and she’s at the police station having convinced her father to let her write a report about the GCPD. All she really wants, though, is to get a glimpse of something Batman-related (who, at this time, is a relatively new vigilante who’s making the cops look bad while also doing some good). Her wish is granted when she walks past a meeting about him taking place.
As her tour of the station continues, she passes Harry X, a massive women-killing and manipulating psycho-prophet who is brought in following a string of grisly murders. Before he can be booked, however, Harry is sprung by some of his rabid followers. Barbara steps up to help some of the overwhelmed cops, and in the process she meets Batman, who takes her under his wing, trains her yet further (we’re given a Hollywood-worthy montage at the beginning to show us just how driven she really is – a theme that runs throughout the issue, somewhat self-consciously so given that it’s narrated by Barbara’s own inner monologue).
The issue ends with the fateful moment (first shown in Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke), which would leave Barbara’s life forever changed, and a long way from her Batgirl persona. People following the Batgirl series will know, though, that the story jumps very far ahead in issue #1, as Barbara starts piecing her vigilante ‘career’ back together.
The issue enjoys some great artwork, and the writing is top-notch as always (with that one niggle about laying on Barbara’s driven and intense character a bit too thickly). The story-telling is very good, mostly tight, and the story is a nice addition to the overall Barbara Gordon story. Batgirl remains one of my favourite of the New 52.
Back-Up, “Tomorrow”: Writer: James Tynion IV | Artist: Andy Clarke | Colours: FCO Plascencia
Bruce Wayne has returned from his worldwide quest to take the law into his own hands!
This issue reveals the early steps of building everything that surrounds Batman – the costume, the cave, the car, the gadgets!
The story starts six years ago, as Bruce goes undercover in the Red Hood Gang (an echo of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, perhaps), but it’s still early in his crime-fighting career, so he’s been making mistakes (not enough homework). He’s also not come up with the idea of Batman, yet.
Bruce is not living at the manor, but he has still created a pre-Bat-Cave of gadgets and crime-fighting gizmos, from which he wages his quiet vigilante war against the scum and criminals of Gotham. He’s still young, the fight is everything to him, and all-consuming so he doesn’t recognise the importance of what being a Wayne means, and how that will help his cause as well.
The Red Hood Gang story is apparently going to pick up again in 2013, according to the final page of the main story...
There is a very interesting and well-done scene, which closes the issue, between Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne, on the rooftop of the townhouse. It takes place in the middle of an early Batarang-prototype test, and Snyder’s written a very well-paced scene that the art team enhances a great deal with their composition and timing.
The back-up story takes us forward one year, and it gives us quick-fire introductions to three upcoming Robins: Timothy Drake, who foils a headmaster’s scheme to bilk the private school out of over a million dollars (and is a real cheeky bastard, too...); Jason Todd, who is involved in a robbery that goes really bad, when his partner shoots a bystander for no real reason (but Jason metes out his own brand of street-justice in return); and finally Dick Grayson, who helps someone out at the circus (clearly, this is set before Nightwing #0, below). The story then switches to the roof of the GCPD building, and the unveiling of the Bat Signal, as seen by these three future Robins and also Barbara Gordon, who is up on the roof with Commissioner Gordon.
It’s a nicely conceived story, but it adds a lot of questions about the rapidly messing-up Batman story chronology.
Batman & Robin
Damian’s complicated relationship with his mother, Talia al Ghul, takes center stage. Bred to kill and not to care, this is the birth of an assassin!
Batman & Robin has been one of the series that has most surprised me out of the New 52. At first, I thought it was going to be more of a ‘kiddy’ series, but I could not have been more wrong. Tomasi has made this one of the darker, more morally ambiguous Batman titles, and it has been among my top five favourites ever since I read issue one.
This prequel issue deals with everything from Damian’s birth – he appears to have been gestated in a fake womb. After he’s born, he is an evil, angry-looking baby...
Top panel: See? Eeeevil!
The issue then takes readers through the rigorous, grueling training that his mother forces him to endure. It’s really no wonder why he’s such a sociopathic little shit in some of the main issues.
The issue ends with his eventual meeting with his father, and proceeds to screw up the timeline more than any other Bat-family title. It is, nevertheless, a pretty good issue – it’s very just much a long montage, though, which might annoy some people. The artwork’s more-cartoon-y style won’t be to everyone’s taste, but you do get used to it after just a few pages.
If you’ve enjoyed the Batman & Robin New 52 series, then I would certainly recommend you pick this up.
See how Kate Kane shed her life of excess and disgrace to become the costumed vigilante known as Batwoman! Has she truly put her demons to rest?
This is a very well-done comic – it has barely any of the weird, horror-inflections of the main series, or even Greg Rucka’s Elegy. We see Kate struggling to cope with her life before Batwoman and after the death of her mother. It’s presented as Kate’s message to her father, narrating how she got to where she is now. It offers a few spoilers for the already-published Batwoman issues, so I’m not sure it’s a good starting-point. At the same time, the spoilers aren’t overly-detailed, so maybe it could work as an introduction.
Panel when she meets Batman is an incredible full-page piece of art (sadly I couldn’t find a preview image of it). The flashback and ‘present’ artwork styles are here again, and both do their jobs excellently, offering great contrasts:
I still think Rucka’s Elegy is a must-read introduction to the Batwoman character and aesthetic – it is different to the other Bat-family titles in some pretty key ways.
Nevertheless, this is a great issue, one that should also appeal to readers who think the series has veered a little too much into the horror/supernatural realm – this is a lot more straight-forward, gives us a good glimpse into Kate’s mindset and her developing relationship with her father (again, something that will be more familiar to readers who have already been keeping up-to-date with the main series).
The secret origin of Selina Kyle!
Major shocks are in store for Catwoman this year – and this is just the beginning!
This issue jumps back-and-forth between a number of timelines – “A few years ago...”, a year before that, and also “Long Ago” – each of which gives the reader just a little more information about Selina’s past (she was unhinged even then, but more in a hyper-kleptomaniac and slightly over-emotional way, rather than the psychotic thief we got to know in the main series run).
We also get to see the catalyzing event that turns her into Catwoman – this was somewhat similar to that in Batman Returns, now that I think of it. We’re given what I presume are hints of things to come, but it wasn’t entirely clear, having not kept up with the series proper. (This is, in other words, another example of how these zero-issues are not very good introductions – there are others, below.)
It was a rather radical issue, in some ways, throwing a considerable amount of doubt onto Selina’s past and who she actually is. It’ll be interesting to see how the creative team let this play out. The pacing was a little erratic, so it wasn’t the best Catwoman issue I’ve ever read, but it was far from a ‘bad’ issue.
Back-Up, “The Long Wait”: Writer: James Tynion IV | Artist: Henrick Jonsson | Inks: Sandu Florea | Colours: John Kalisz
Discover how young Bruce Wayne learned to wield the martial arts, and how a major villain was introduced into his life.
“10 Years Ago”, the story starts in the Himalayas – although, the speech-honorifics are a bit mixed (slightly Thai, slightly Japanese). Bruce is on his training world-tour (which has been alluded to in a good deal of Batman literature and even the latest movies). He’s there to learn from Shihan Matsuda. It is a tale of loss and ultimate betrayal.
It’s yet another slightly-montage-esque issue, as Bruce goes through his “inner-strength” training, meets a girl, and is told he must shed emotional attachments. It’s a little bit cliché, but it’s actually very nicely done, and Hurwitz brings just enough emotion and shocking moments to impress and please new and old readers alike. I’m certainly interested in picking up more of Detective Comics, now that he’s taken over (not that I had a problem with earlier writers, mind). The final page of the story is also very arresting (I could have found a preview image, but I don’t want to spoil it).
The back-up story is set “Seven years ago”, and we join Alfred back at Wayne Manor. He’s worried about Bruce, who he thinks of as “my boy”, which I thought was a nice touch – showing us how much Wayne’s butler is actually far more to them both. It was always implicit, but it was nice to see Alfred be explicit about his feelings for Bruce.
A man called Shaw, who if I remember correctly is part of the Wayne Enterprises Board, has come to try once again to convince Alfred that Bruce is dead. This would give Alfred the excuse he needs to break his promise to the Waynes to keep things for Bruce when he’s ready to assume to role of master of Wayne manor and the company. We see a particularly fervent, disagreeable side of Alfred (he can have a bit of a temper, apparently), which only made me like him more. And then, just as Alfred kicks Shaw to the curb, someone else arrives at Wayne Manor…
I really liked both of the stories in here, and think they genuinely add an extra layer to the Batman story. Unfortunately, like the other Batman titles, it also muddies the waters further about the overall time-frame of Batman and its characters.
Oliver Queen is young, rich and reckless…what could possibly go wrong? Discover the events leading up to the birth of Green Arrow, and Ollie’s history with Roy Harper!
This issue is set “Several Years Ago”, and tells us of how Ollie grew from the spoiled rich-kid brat into the vigilante bow-master. We’re join the story when Ollie has been banished to a Queen Industries oil rig as a last-resort job for the wayward son.
The rig is invaded by “Iron Eagle”, a bad-guy that comfortably falls into the villain category of Big Mother Fucker in a Suit of Armour, bearing an assortment of firearms, and accompanied by some ninja-types. Things go drastically wrong, and we learn of how Ollie became ship-wrecked. We also learn of how Roy Harper came to Ollie’s attention and into his employ. We’re basically given Ollie’s motivation in one compact issue. And a cliff-hanger ending that suggests where things will go in the main series.
Slight sketch-like quality to the art, which was actually pretty good. Think it would work for All-Star Western (not sure why specifically that series, but that's what I thought of). Sometimes it looks a bit too busy, a hectic mish-mash of lines and alternating shades of colour, but it mostly works.
Overall, this was a pretty good issue, and unlike some of the other zero-issues, it actually serves as an introduction, offering a great deal of backstory and character motivation. It’s just a pity the artwork was so uneven.
Writer: Geoff Johns | Artist: Gary Frank | Colours: Brad Anderson
Back-Up, “Questions”: Writer: Geoff Johns | Artist: Ethan Van Sciver | Colours: Hi-Fi
Billy Batson takes center stage in this issue as he unleashes the awesome power of Shazam in a special origin story! Also featuring the not-to-be-missed origin of Pandora and the next seeds of TRINITY WAR!
I still think Shazam is a rather weak, silly idea. But, this comic does a good job of making him a little more interesting, updating the concept to match today’s sensibilities (it’s not so twee as I bet it was to begin with). Billy’s also a bit of a brat, so it makes him more interesting to read about.
Shazam is another character I haven’t had much experience with – he featured in the Free Comic Book Day New 52 issue, and has also been the back-up story in Justice League for a few months – as I haven’t been following that series, though, there are some allusions and references in this that went well over my head.
There’s a funny comment from his friend, Freddy, about the outfit (which is horrendously flash), and coupled with some other content in the issue suggests that the creative team aren’t taking themselves too seriously. It has shades of Big, if the Tom Hanks movie had been even more fantastical and involved superheroes.
The issue also comes with a back-up story, “Questions”, which reunites us with Pandora, who is trying to get the skull-looking box to open. She hopes to get the sins and so forth back into the box, but there are (I gather) only two people who will be able to open the box and control what is left inside – one warrior of good and one of evil. The story poses a lot of questions, but borders on the frustrating in its lack of detail or even minor answers. The art is very nice, though.
Is this a necessary issue? Perhaps not. But if you’ve been enjoying the Shazam back-ups in the Justice League series, then I suppose you’ll want to get this to learn a bit about how Billy got his powers.
It’s the origin of Dick Grayson: from orphan to super hero.
This story is set “A few years ago”, and shows us the evolution of Dick Grayson into the first Robin. I actually really enjoyed this – the way we see Dick slip into life around Batman so easily, his training and experience shaping him into something different to Bruce. They have a shared past, in some ways, with similar experiences, but have both approached it very differently: Dick doesn’t wallow, and spends all of his time looking ahead, while retaining his core conviction and motivation at heart.
I thought this was a really good issue, but I’m not really sure what else to write about it. The artwork and writing are top-notch.
It is, though, another of the Bat-family titles that totally screws with the timeline. I’m not really sure how they’re going to deal with this in the long-run…
Learn what happened to The Phantom Stranger after the FREE COMIC BOOK DAY story! Who has been sacrificed? Who is guilty? Who can save us? And who is The Phantom Stranger? Major players in The New 52 will be introduced in these pages!
The first of the New 52 “Third Wave” that I’ve read, but the character has appeared before in the Free Comic Book Day issue. We’ve seen the events covered in the first few pages before, but this time we’re shown the Stranger’s “creation” from an alternative perspective.
As it turns out, he’s Judas Iscariot (there were a couple of hints before it’s properly revealed, too: he hanged himself, and was given a necklace of silver pieces that he can never remove as part of his punishment). He’s made to wander the world until he repays his sins. In this issue, he’s told to seek out Jim Corrigan.
There was a handy explanation at the end of the issue, in the form of one of the zero-issues’ “Who’s Who in the New 52”, which I thought was a very good, necessary inclusion:
“The Phantom Stranger wanders the universe observing... and at times hearing a call from a higher power to take interest in a soul for the greater good of mankind. There callings are a double-edged sword for the Stranger. Although he can remove one of the thirty pieces of silver he wears as a cursed necklace, he is also eventually forced to betray those that he encounters as penance.”
The artwork is fine, but unfortunately the writing is rather bland. It lacks art, which was very disappointing given the potential of the character. The dialogue is just flat and emotionless, which robbed the reveal near the end of much of its impact.
I have no idea how this series is going to shape up, but I’d like to give the first couple of issues a try at least. Hopefully the writing will improve by then.
Mysteries are revealed as we learn Harvest’s reasons for creating Kryptonian clones! This bloody chapter of Superboy’s history ties directly into issue #1 of the series – and the future of the entire DC Universe!
This issue very much ties a number of stories together, and may prove a spoiler for people who haven’t been following the Superboy and Teen Titan series (it’s all connected to Harvest, I’ll just leave it at that). I liked the added detail for Harvest’s involvement, and finding out just how far back he became involved in Superboy’s life and existence. He’s a pretty cool antagonist, so it was nice to see him crop up again (I’ve read a couple of issues of Superboy already).
We also get a history of Kryptonian cloning, which was kind of interesting, as we learn that even the Kryptonians weren’t able to perfect the process or avoid all possible glitches – which, in the case of Kryptonian clones is referred to, rather quaintly given the end results, as “impulse control issues” (see below).
Not a bad comic, but I’m not entirely sold on the series at this point. Having read a couple of other issues already, I think I’ll probably still give this a try, but I won’t rush out to get the book any point soon.
On the eve of Krypton’s destruction, who sent Supergirl from Krypton to Earth – and why? The answer is not what you think!
Plus: Learn the answer to a mystery that’s been driving Supergirl mad for months: Who shot her father, Zor-El?!
Zor-El, Kara’s father (and Jor-El’s brother), is planning on sending Kara away from Krypton, unwilling to allow her to die with the rest of her people. The issue shows us the events that lead up to Kara’s dispatch from Krypton, and the fraught events that occurred at the same time. All is not well with this branch of the House of El, in these final minutes of Krypton… It offers a nice juxtaposition with the happy-family that is Kal’s immediate family unit.
I’ve never been overly fond of the Krypton-based stories. They just don’t interest me as much as the usual outsider-stories of Superman and company on Earth. Nevertheless, I’d wanted to try this series because I was considering buying the first trade paperback edition when it’s released in the next couple of weeks. This issue hasn’t exactly sold me on the series – just as Superboy #0 didn’t really sell me on that one, either – but I think I may still give it a shot. We’ll see – it’ll be highly dependent on finances and what else is out that week.
The artwork within is a little uneven, too, with many details lacking sharpness, and wide-angle panels just seem to lose focus. For fans of the series only.
A facet of the past is revealed – and a foe is introduced! How did Wonder Woman become a star pupil of Ares?
This issue has a pleasantly old-school aesthetic and style... It’s rather tongue-in-cheek, as Azzarello drops an exposition-heavy writing style. There’s a bit of a pulp sensibility to the story and delivery, but Azzarello makes it work. One early example is that this story is, supposedly, recreated from an issue of “All-Girl Adventure Tales for Men”...
The issue is, in many ways, just a long training-montage, as Diana is schooled by Ares in the art of war, tempered to be driven and peerless, but it is also a training of her mind. Diana also goes up against the Minotaur, which results in a falling-out and an unexpected acquisition of respect.
As I said, there are plenty of amusing, old-school moments, as the creative team draws on some treasured early tropes of comics and fantasy as a whole. “That was the proverbial lucky break...” Diana says at one point, and it surely was.
Despite its strengths, I can only really say that the issue is “ok”. It’s not great, and I think the first volume of the series was a lot stronger on every front than this issue. I don’t think this is a necessary purchase, but for those who have really enjoyed the series thus far, you might find something in here to add a little more depth and detail to Diana’s past and training. Ultimately, though, there’s not a whole lot that can be done in a single issue that has not already been conveyed in the first few issues.