This week saw the release of Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes, a $6.99 one-shot that ended the “first season” of Grant Morrison’s latest (and possibly last) Batman epic.  The art (by Cameron Stewart and Chris Burnham) was quite good, and the story  was surreal on multiple levels, which is pretty much par for the course with Grant Morrison.  I was reading Batman Incorporated back before the DCU was rebooted in September, and I’m thrilled that the editorial higher-ups allowed this story to be completed, albeit very late.  This tale is set before Flashpoint, opening up a huge opportunity for Morrison, and potentially other writers as well.

Just imagine, what if there were periodic books, one-shots or even mini-series, set in the old DCU?  These stories, written and drawn by the top creators in the industry, could tell tales set before Flashpoint that could continue the old universe right where it was left off.  Stephanie Brown would still be Batgirl and Barbara Gordon would still be Oracle.  But since this would no longer be the main DCU, the writers wouldn’t be limited by the golden shackles that keep hitting the reset button every ten years.  In the DCnU, Dick Grayson is Nightwing, but in the old universe, he might remain as Batman.  Superman is single in the DCnU, but he and Lois could have kids back in the old universe.  There are so many possibilities, and these would essentially be Elseworlds stories set in the world that we all grew up loving.

There’s an historical president here as well.  When the DCU shifted from Earth-2 over to Earth-1 back in the day, the Earth-2 characters were allowed to grow old, marry, have families, and in some cases die.  Many fans came to love the Justice Society from these stories where Robin grew up and the Huntress was Bruce Wayne’s daughter.  If DC Editorial is smart, they won’t cut off total access to the old universe, but allow the stories to continue as I’ve described above.  That way they would draw in older fans (some of whom have been alienated by the New 52) without diminishing what they’re doing in the new universe.  To draw a comparison to Marvel, the main universe would be the new versions of the characters, and the Ultimate universe would be the familiar classics.

Or, I could just be grasping at straws.  I liked the old universe, and I know that I will be there whenever they decide to revisit it.

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and gets at least one good comic-related present under the tree.

So I keep vacillating between love and lovenot for the new 52 titles. I love the fact that DC is revamping their entire universe–well as long as it’s permanent, that is. I’m a little concerned that in Legion of Super Heroes, they refer to this as the “52 Event” in the timestream. Is the new 52 a sales ploy? Of course. But I really WANT it to be more than that.

You know what I love about the new 52? Pretty much all the dark, Vertigo-like titles and tie-ins. Loving Justice League Dark (go Shade), Digging Demon Knights, groovin’ on Deadman (with some caveats that I’ll get into in a later post), and think that the new I Vampire is the shiznit.

I have some small bit of nostalgia for the old I Vampire stories in the 80s, even though none of them really stood out to me. This is a fantastic update of the character–and really has the feel of a Vertigo title, but in the mainstream universe. Like all the classics, this one’s a love story–a dark, twisted, obsessive, painful, blood-filled, vengeful love story–y’know, the best kind. Our “hero” turned the woman he loves into a fellow vampire some centuries back, but when she goes vamp, she doesn’t maintain the same good intentions he seems to appreciate. Hilarity ensues. Wait, that’s a different book. I mean, honking insane body count ensues. Good stuff.

My only real gripe with the comic is a gripe that I have with a lot of contemporary comics. At times, the art is so slavishly dependent on photo reference that it looks traced. However, the storytelling is tight and appropriate–and serves the plot well. It’s a groovy book–go get one.

Moving on to some quick reviews. I’ve heard some complaints about Savage Hawkman. Other than a rather odd handling of the “science” of Nth Metal, I was pretty entertained by the book–particularly the savage artwork–which feels both traditional and digital. Kind of a dumb name for a super villain, though…

Dark Knight #1 was fun and nicely showcases David Finch’s always aesthetically pleasing artwork. I continue to be somewhat offended by the rampant sexism in today’s 52–a proud contemporary tradition in the new DC universe. Bruce Wayne seems to be surrounded by oversexed pining 20-somethings whenever he’s out of the bat-suit–and his new girlfriend shops at the same stores as Paris Hilton. Sigh, at least it’s well-drawn.

Stay tuned, gentle readers-more review happiness to come…

OK, gentle readers–I know what you’re thinking. Last week, Jerry rails against the sexualization of a couple of DC’s leading ladies; this week, he’s telling you to check out a pinup book! I never said I wasn’t a hypocrite…

How many of you dug Batman, the Animated Series? Yeah, me too. What started out as a well-designed homage to the old Fleischer Studios Superman cartoon soon became one of the greatest superhero cartoons ever developed. The show evolved into the Superman/Batman hour (with an incredible new Superman cartoon), led to the gorgeously designed Batman Beyond, and eventually spawned the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons–both of which I try to make a point to watch once a year. His resume doesn’t stop there, as he’s been producing DC’s direct-to-video animated films since the shows went off the air.

When I first discovered Timm’s work, I was impressed by the way he effortlessly incorporated design styles into his work. When you study it closely, you’ll see a lot of Kirby, followed by a healthy dose of Toth (particularly Toth’s work at Hannah Barbera), a bit of Steranko, and even doses of John Buscema and Ditko.

When is Timm 100% Timm? When he’s drawing the ladies! He’s a fantastic pinup artist–his drawings of women have charm, innocence, beauty, and a bit of the naughty in them. Not naughty like Soroyama–more naughty like Elvgren (if you have no idea who any of these artists are, let me know–or you have the Google…)

I’ve been looking forward to a book like this for years! Flesk Publications seems to want to publish EVERY book I want–Mark Schultz, Al Williamson, Craig Elliot, Jim Silke, and now Bruce Timm! I’ve been collecting Timm’s Kinkos-special sketchbooks for half a decade, and I’m ecstatic to have a nice coffee table collection of his good-girl artwork. Naughty And Nice comes in 2 editions–both at 9×12 and 304 pages. Paperbound for $50. Hardbound deluxe signed in slipcase, limited to 1000 for $100. Sounds expensive, my friends, but its worth it! I hope I write this review in time for you to place a Previews order. If not, try and get it in on a reorder–you won’t be disappointed.

Yes, dear readers, I bought a ton of new #1s from the continual fire hose of D.C.’s, The New 52! IN GENERAL, the reads were OK. There is a propensity across most of these renewed titles to be more visceral and “edgy,” with more graphic violence, more (attempted) sharp language, and more attitude. Definitely, it seems that the books are catering to a young audience, and why not? All of us old geezers won’t be around forever, and one day, these kids may have paychecks of their own and enough disposable income to drop the big bucks on their books every month like us old folk do.

Here’s how last week’s new number one’s (the ones that I read at least) came across. Batman was good but with only a so-so attempt at a shocker cliff-hanger. Green Lantern Corps was pretty good, but trying way too hard to be daring and gritty, while coming across more like a bad slasher movie than anything else.

Wonder Woman was…interesting. There is a different feel to the book. A little more noir, and I’m interested to see where it goes. Batman and Robin. Trying too hard again, but an OK read. Supergirl was pretty cool (and hot at the same time), and her book ties in with pretty well with the Superman story. I’m gonna keep watching this for now.

Red Lanterns was OK, but a bit overdone, and despite the writers trying to add depth to Atrocitus, I can’t see this book having enough depth of its own to be a continuing title. Then again, they have set up a premise that may work. We’ll have to wait and see.

Legion of Super-Heroes had nice art, but honestly, I thought the story was a bit confusing and disjointed. And the Blue Beetle. In all fairness, I haven’t read the Blue Beetle since he was a part of the Charlton Comics lineup. So, this new take on the Beetle may or may not be a fresh departure from the recent Beetle storylines. I will say, however, that I was mildly annoyed by the interspersing of un-translated Spanish throughout the book. And, yeah, I get the fact that we should have more cultural diversity everywhere and that English isn’t REALLY the official language of our country, but…it was still annoying. AND, I even speak enough Spanish to understand most of what was said.

So, there’s the run-down on the latest first issues. More importantly though is the one book that I couldn’t wait to read. This comic wasn’t from DC OR Marvel. It was The Bionic Man #2, by Kevin Smith and published by Dynamite. The art is good. The story and dialogue is good. And…well, it’s The Bionic Man! I think just his eye alone costs more than $6 million dollars today, so he’s probably more like the $6 billion dollar man now, but I think this book is going to be bad-a$$, and I imagine that no matter how many first issues I have in my pile, I’m still going to start with The Bionic Man just for the pure enjoyment of the read.

Until next week…

Cover to Nightwing #1Dick Grayson is my favorite comic character.  The first comic I ever bought was New Teen Titans #44, from a 7-11 spinner rack in Fairfax.  I still have the book, beaten and torn, and I took it to Baltimore Comic Con a few years back to be signed by Marv Wolfman.  He smiled and told me how much he enjoys seeing well-loved books like that.

I’m telling you this so you understand that I have high expectations for a Nightwing series.  Let’s face it, Dick Grayson hasn’t been well-treated in the past.  After being ranked among the top 5 most popular characters in the 80s, DC decided to turn Nightwing into a crybaby.  His relationship with Starfire ended badly when she married another man on Tamaran, and he never really recovered his cool from that point forward.  He played the role of Batman briefly after the Knightfall saga, and then launched into his own series in the mid-90s.

Nightwing Vol.1 started well, but it took 100 issues to resolve the Blockbuster storyline, and that was just way too long.  And a certain writer decided to turn the crybaby aspect of the character up to 11, giving us moments like the Tarantula rape sequence and Dick allowing Blockbuster to be murdered.  There were a couple of good Nightwing moments over in Teen Titans, and he helped save the day in Infinite Crisis.  Then we learned that Dan Didio wanted to kill Dick instead of Superboy, and we were subjected to several years of taunting by the main man at DC.  After 52, during One Year Later, the series took a turn for the worse when Jason Todd assumed the role of Nightwing in a confusing storyline.  Things were looking pretty bad, and then Peter Tomasi took over the title and it was great.  Not just good, but great.  Unfortunately, his run was short-lived, as Dick fought the Battle for the Cowl and took over the role of Batman.

I was skeptical of Dick Grayson Batman at first, but I came to love him in the role.  My favorite character was starring in 5 monthly books (Batman, Detective, Batman & Robin, Streets of Gotham and Justice League) and it was awesome!  They had top writers and artists on the character, and he was finally in his deserved place at the center of the DCU.

And then the relaunch happened, Dick went back to Nightwing and to starring in only 1 book, and he was relegated to the 3rd tier of the DCU.  Don’t forget, Dick has been around longer than Barry Allen, Hal Jordan and most of the rest of the DCU.  He even appeared before Wonder Woman!  The real DC Trinity should be Superman, Batman and Nightwing!

As disappointed as I am that Dick only has 1 title now, I have to admit that I prefer him in the role of Nightwing.  I like the new costume, though I would have preferred blue over red, and I’m pleased with the interior art.  And best of all, Kyle Higgins appears to be a huge Nightwing fan, and has really taken care with the character.  Dick didn’t come off as a crybaby at all, but a strong, noble hero that can hold his own in the DCU (or the DCnU).  I’ve officially added Nightwing to my pull list, and it’s safe to say that this is one title that I will not be dropping anytime soon.  Red Hood and the Outlaws, on the other hand, was perhaps the worst book I’ve read, so not everything was a winner this week.  But at least Nightwing was good, so I can be happy that my favorite character is still shining after the relaunch.