Action Comics #1 (2012)

Trying New Comics Is Always A Gamble

This blog is officially a Before Watchmen-free zone (see here for my thoughts) but that doesn’t mean I don’t try new comics. However, as the post title states, trying new comics is a gamble, and not one that always pays off. For example, the ‘new’ DC universe of titles.

As discussed in my post at the time, I selected some books to try, based on the ideas and the creators behind them. I chose Stormwatch by Paul Cornell based on my affection for the Warren Ellis run and Cornell’s work on Captain Britain. I chose Justice League Dark because of the (previously) Vertigo characters grouped together back in the DCU and because Peter Milligan would be writing Shade again. I chose Batwoman because of the art (JH Williams was killing it in the Detective Comics run), the previous Greg Rucka-written stories and the fact that it would see a role for Cameron Chase (written by one of her co-creators). And obviously Action Comics because GRANT MORRISON ON SUPERMAN.

These books were bought sight unseen, based on the trust engendered by the work produced by creators I like and that optimism inherent in the comic book fan – I love that feeling of reading a new book and being blown away, and wanting to share that feeling. I also was going to give these books three issues to see if they could grab me (because one issue isn’t enough for me, or because I’m not quick on the uptake, or because I am a forgiving type of person – take your pick). Am I too generous because it is comic books and the industry is so small and I feel protective and supportive towards it? Perhaps, but it now means that I have six issues of comics I didn’t like (Stormwatch and Justice League Dark), five issues of a book that has beautiful art but with a story that doesn’t match (Batwoman) and eight issues of a Grant Morrison book that had flashes of greatness but I’m not sure I enjoyed very much (Action Comics).

Looking back, I should have seen that Stormwatch and Justice League Dark weren’t very good in the first issues instead of waiting until issue #3 to drop them. The art and stories were uninspired, and I didn’t feel any of the writers’ spark in the books. I put this down to the approach that DC has taken towards the Nu52: get them out on time every month, no matter what, with no room for individual creativity. There have been many changes in art teams because they couldn’t keep to the monthly schedule (and there are very few cases where a single artist has produced all the art on all the issues produced so far) and there have been many cases of writers leaving books for ‘creative differences’ (or other excuses, such as John Rozum), which suggest that DCU is all about corporate comics, editorial control, house art style and very little flavour.

I dropped Batwoman when Williams was no longer on art duties (not even the regular appearance of the great character Cameron Chase could keep me buying the issues without Williams’ gorgeous pencils), but I kept on with Action Comics until issue #8 because there were glimmers of something: the ‘T-shirt and jeans’ Superman railing against injustice and helping those who couldn’t help themselves was intriguing (although that seemed to fade into the background as the traditional superheroics became the important aspect of the book) and the Morrisonian antics of issue #6 sparked my interest. However, after eight issues and the end of the first storyline (and nearly £24 spent), I could no longer justify the expense of a book that wasn’t grabbing my attention and making me want to read it, especially when it’s a $3.99 book with a back-up story by someone WHO ISN’T GRANT MORRISON.

As of now, I am not reading any books in the NuDCNuU, but at least I feel like I’m not wasting any more money on it. Despite this, there is still the lingering sensation that I’ve wasted my time and money – the fact that I still have a physical thing attached to the monetary value makes it more real (instead of spending it on something intangible, like travel or buying a pint for someone down the pub) and retains the real sense of a gamble that didn’t pay off. I’m off to gamble my money on some new Image titles – at least they seem to hark from a sense of passion about comics and expressing something new and interesting (e.g. Saga, FataleAmerica’s Got Powers, Hell Yeah, Danger Club).

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