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Greetings. I am the Illusive One. For many years now I have been a huge video game player, movie viewer, and book reader. For almost as long, I have been a critic of these things and many people respect my opinions of these things and have often said I belong on G4 doing reviews on X-Play or a similar show. Sadly that is not likely to happen. So instead I shall do reviews for you, uninfluenced by other reviewers, of video games books, movies, and, occasionally, music and political actions. I hope you find this informative and helpful. Thank you for your time.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The New 52 Part 5: The Dark

            Well, after a two month hiatus, it’s finally time for me to be a complete nerd once again and finish up the first run of the New 52 and this time we’ll be looking at The Dark.  Now, I’m going to apologize in advance if this article seems a little lax, as their really weren’t too many lines in this section that I loved or hated and as a result, I don’t really have too much to say about them.  Not to mention I read a good chunk of these back in February before I got distracted by Mass Effect and had a good chunk of it written out then.  Unfortunately due to technical problems I lost that entire document and had to start from scratch and I was too lazy to reread all the first five issues of these comic.  I’ll also be including my thoughts on Issues 6-8 as they’ve all come out and it is necessary for my reviews to be valid.   So here it is at last.  The Illusive One’s Review of The New 52 Part 5: The Dark.

Justice League: Dark

            First on our list for the day is Justice League: Dark, and I have to say, this one really impressed me and is, in my opinion, the best line with Justice League in the title.  In the first five issues the plot involves various magic using heroes, anti-heroes and possible villains as they try to stop an insane witch from destroying the world in an uncontrolled fury.  In Issues 6-8 it crosses over with I, Vampire in which they help the vampire hunters of that series stop an ancient evil from taking over the world. 
            So, what works with this particular line?  Well, for starters, the art direction is good and the story moves at a decent pace.  The plot involving magic is fascinating and keeps the reader wondering what will come out next.  The story involving the witch/enchantress was good and kept the reader involved and the second part featured really great action and fantastic crossovers as the editing worked perfectly with I, Vampire.  The characters were also really enjoyable.  Whereas in JL:I they seemed a little to on the light side, and the ones in Justice League were unlikable douche bags, they had just the right amount here.  They weren’t anti heroic enough to where they came off as emo but still not light enough to where I thought they didn’t seem like people.  And that’s what works about them.  They do seem like they are actual people with real problems.
            However, there are some things that will probably keep some people away.  For as fascinating as the magic concepts are, it can get really confusing and at times a little overly complex, and at times you aren’t sure what the hell is actually going on and this does drag the story down.  While the characters are good, they’re another group of C listers and people may not be as interested in them.
All around the problem mentioned above do drag this line down and keeps it out of my Read section as I can easily see why someone wouldn’t like it because of those things.  But even with that in mind, it is the best story with Justice League in the title.  If you can get past the fact that these characters aren’t A Listers, or some of the confusing aspects of the story, then I recommend you give this one a look.


Swamp Thing

            Holy Hell!  This one is good and easily one of the best of the New 52.  Now, to be honest, I went into this line not really knowing what to expect.  I was vaguely familiar with the character and knew that Alan Moore was involved with the early stages of the series, (although contrary to popular belief, he did not co-create it), but other than that, I didn’t know much.  But for a newcomer like me, this line was perfect.  It follows Dr. Alec Holland after he has become human again, (they never exactly explain how), as he is once again call upon to become Swamp Thing to battle and evil force known as The Rot. 
            As I mentioned before this line is great but there were three major things that sold me on it.  First was the mythology and the forces of The Green, The Red and The Rot and how they were all in constant battle with one another.  It was something that kept me engrossed the whole time and was nothing short of incredible.  The second was the protagonist, as he was incredibly compelling and you sympathize with him as well as his not wanting to turn into one of those creatures again.  The third was the villains and just how demented and evil they were.  The art work is also really good, with the gore and Rot creatures particularly grotesque and works with the comic perfectly.
            The only real issue some people may have with this comic line is that it takes a while to get started.  But other than that, it had great characters, great villains, a great plot, great art work, and great concept to tie it all together.  Easily on of the best of the New 52 and one that I highly recommend that you read.


Animal Man

            Next on our list is Animal Man, or as I like to call it, Swamp Thing’s Less Talented Brother because that’s the biggest problem with this line in a nutshell.  It basically has the same concepts and villains as Swamp Thing, only not done as well.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  As you probably already know this series revolves around Buddy Baker, also known as the Animal Man as he to battles the Rot for the Red, (a faction of nature mentioned in Swamp Thing), while also trying to deal with the effects his battles are having on his family.
            As I mentioned before, it ultimately comes off as Swamp Thing’s less talented brother, with inferior artwork and concepts that aren’t explained nearly as well or draw you in as much and because of this, you’re better off reading Swap Thing as it’s the superior story.  However, that doesn’t mean that this line isn’t good.  Buddy Baker is a compelling protagonist and it’s refreshing to see a hero who actually has a family and a life and real day to day problems.  The concepts, especially concerning the Red, are good, (but I’ll have to stay vague for spoiler purposes) and do keep the reader engaged.  There are also a lot of creature designs that are very Lovecraftian and I just love it.  And like Swamp Thing, a lot of the Rot creatures are grotesque and I just love the way they consume their victims.

            Again, it’s a good story but I would recommend Swamp Thing before I would go to this one.  On its own, it’s decent, but compared to the former, it’s just ok.


Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.

            This series is a little odd to talk about because it has a very bizarre concept.  It follows, (and I am not kidding about this), the Frankenstein Monster as he battles various monsters and organizations for a shady government organization, (how many does that make now?) known as S.H.A.D.E.  The first four issues follows the monster and his team of mutated humanoid creatures as they battle extra-terrestrial creatures who want to consume the Earth, (how many aliens does that make who want to destroy and/or take over the world?).  Issue 5 follows a brief battle with OMAC, Issue 6 and 7, another mutant from Frankenstein’s past and an attempted elimination of S.H.A.D.E., and Issue 8 following the hunting of a creature unexpectedly close to Frankenstein.
            They made great use of the alien creatures in the first four issues and the various ways that they had to kill them.  The art direction is good as is the action and the characters are interesting.  The concept of S.H.A.D.E. is also a decent one but I’m starting to question just how many shady government organizations they can have in this universe, (by my count it’s around five or six).  I also like the way the stories are a bit more episodic and don’t really follow any apparent long term story as it allows the character to fight new creatures and the readers to see new things and I feel that that’s a strength in its own right.
            However the characters ultimately leave something to be wanted and aren’t nearly as fleshed out as they should be and we don’t really connect with any of them.  While I do like the kid of episodic thing they have it results in storylines that leave something to be wanted.  Their doesn’t seem to be any rules regarding the creatures, in terms of what they can survive as we see them go through all kinds of hell and get through it relatively easily and without much harm and this is something that I find really distracting.
            While this one does have some good ideas going for it, I really wouldn’t call it great.  I can’t exactly pinpoint what it is but everything about it just leaves something to be wanted.  But still, it’s a decent enough read and I’d recommend getting your own opinion on it.


I, Vampire

            I, Vampire is a line that I find a little difficult to talk about because I don’t feel much towards this line, (love or hate), and what I do feel towards it is mixed.  The storyline follows vampire Andrew Bennett as he tries to keep his former lover, Mary Seward from wiping out humanity with her army of vampires.  And that’s really all it is in terms of plot.
            So what works about it?  Well, it has great action and the crossovers with Justice League: Dark was well done.   I liked the way they actually made vampires bad guys and had less in common with the vampires of modern pop culture.   The problem that I have with it is that it doesn’t really do anything new.  I just feel like I’ve heard this story before in a dozen different places and I just can’t bring myself to support it because of that.  However, the crossovers with Justice League: Dark in Issues 6-8 make it worth wile and the payoff is pretty damn good and you should read it if only for that reason or if you want to see more traditional vampires and Batman fighting off an army of them in Gotham City.  But other than that, it’s just ok.


Resurrection Man

            I have to admit that when I first heard about the idea of Resurrection Man, I honestly thought it was one of the dumbest things that I had ever heard.  A guy who can’t die?  Well, you could say the same thing about any of the D.C. heroes.  They die all the damn time yet somehow keep coming back.  But then I actually read the comic and holy hot damn was it good.  It follows Mitch Shelly, The Resurrection Man who has no memory of whom he is and has the unusual ability to resurrect after death with superhuman abilities that change after each death while the forces of heaven, hell, mysterious corporations and government agencies hunt him for their own reasons.
            What makes the story in this line work is the great mystery involving the protagonist, who has no memory of who he is which makes him incredibly compelling.  You want to know who he is and find out how and why he has his powers.  The actual story arcs work very well, sometimes taking an anthology route and others that involving people who claim to know him and angels and demons who want to claim his soul.  It’s also incredibly fascinating to see how he uses all these powers and what he’ll have after he dies again.  Finally, the art direction is great as are the action panels.
            The only things that may keep some people away is the fact that the character is a D list one and their area few questionable design decisions, (wired fan boy pleasing stuff with hints of lesbianism).  Other than that, however this is a great line and, in my opinion, one of the best of the New 52.  If you can get past the fact that this guy is a D lister I highly recommend that you give it a read as it’s worth both your time and money. 


Demon Knights

            Finally, we have Demon Knights, a line that takes place thousands of years before events of most of the current comics in the Dark Ages.  The storyline follows Jason Blood and his demon counterpart, Etrigan and various other immoral characters included Madame Xanadu, the female Shining Knight, (although the character doesn’t acknowledge being a female so I don’t know what’s up with him/her), and Vandal Savage before he became a big super villain of the D.C. Universe and a few other characters as they try to defend a village from a massive army that is attempting to invade a nearby kingdom.
            Now you would think that given my love for series like First Law or the Shannara series that this one would be right up my alley.  Well….Ok let’s just start with the good.  For starters, the art direction is fantastic with everything looking amazing.  The action is also great, especially when the full blow battle starts in the later issues.  The characters are all likeable and fascinating in different ways, and I think it’s really cool to see some of Vandal Savage’s pre-super villain exploits.  However, it takes a while for things to get started and I found some of the concepts involving Camelot and Merlin to be more than a little confusing and felt that it could have used better explanation and the actual story doesn’t really impress me.  It’s just ok.
            All around if you want to see a fantasy comic line, then you could do a lot worse.  However, I think that if you want a good fantasy story, you better off looking for novels by Joe Abercrombie or George R.R. Martin.  But as it stands, this one is just ok and is one that I recommend that you get your own opinion on.


            And that’s it for my look at The Dark.  It took me over two months but I finally finished them all.  But out of all of them, this one was the least interesting.  I mean, Swamp Thing and Resurrection Man were both great and I really enjoyed Justice League: Dark, but those aside none of these lines really made that big of an impression.  Not that any of them were horrible, but most of them were just ok and I suggest that you get your own opinions on them.  Next time I’ll be reviewing The Edge and from what I’ve read of them so far, they’re frikkin awesome so I’ll probably have a lot more to say in that article.  So until next time, this is The Illusive One signing off.

1 comment:

  1. Huh, I would have thought you'd like a lot more of these, especially Frankenstien and Demon Knights, both are a pair of my favorites, as are Ressurection Man, I Vampire, Swamp Thing, and Animal Man. Actually, come to think of it, the only Dark title I didn't like was JL:Dark.

    One thing though - Ressurection Man is not D list, he was one of DC's biggest titles in the 1990s, but like Lobo and some other fixtures of the 1990s, got canned when DC swapped heads in the early 2000s.