Welcome to month 2 of the DC New 52. Shiney new #1 issues are all well and good, but what about the second ones? This is when the novelty wears off just a little and stories have to stand a little more on their own.
With that in mind and in the grand tradition of our "Damn Dirty" series, we're taking a look at all of week 5's issues from DC Comics, the first round of second issues, and seeing where the stories are going, what surprises have popped up, and offering some other random thoughts. This is a recap column, not a review one.
This will be a SPOILER-IFIC column, folks, so please, don't read a particular book's entry unless you've read the book or want to be SPOILED. Also, there will be SPOILERS, and in case you didn't catch it, this is the SPOILER warning section.
We good? Okay, onward...
Action Comics #2
This book picks up an unspecified amount of time after the end of the first issue, where Superman got crushed by a runaway train he was attempting to save. Now he's in chains, being shocked in an electric chair, exposed to deadly gasses, and having people attempt to probe him in various other unspeakable ways. Naturally, the men behind all this are General Sam Lane and Doctor Lex Luthor.
It's interesting to see Luthor being directly addressed as "Dr. Luthor", his scientific acumen and presumably multiple doctorates being focused on in this way, rather than him being presented as a very smart businessman who happens to have lots of connections.Joining Dr. Luthor (or rather clashing with him) is Dr. John Henry Irons. For the uninitiated, this is the man that will become the hero known as "Steel" and in this new continuity, he's working for the U.S. Military on a project called "Steel Soldier." The technical term for that is "foreshadowing". The other military rep for the project? John Corben, who you Super-fans may know as Metallo [cough cough more foreshadowing cough cough].
Aside from showing off science and reintroducing some Superman associates, the book features a sassy Lois (who seems to whine "Daaaaaadddd" a little too much), Lex getting punked by someone who wants him to think Kryptonians are actually Goat-Unicorns (there has to be a bigger joke there that Morrison's not telling us), and Superman revealing another vision ability: Microwave Vision.It's also interesting to note that his cape is indestructible (perhaps Reed lent him some unstable molecules?) and he, at this point, knows next to nothing of his own heritage. And then there's that last page. We find out Brainiac is the one feeding Dr. Luthor information, marking approximately the 359th time Brainiac and Luthor have teamed up in the last three years, including DCU Online and some book called "Action Comics" that got canceled a couple of months ago.
Animal Man #2
Dead animal pets ! Skeleton dead animal pets! It's that sort of creepy-cute that makes this whole relaunch worthwhile.
This book continues to be an all-out freaky-deaky mind-f*#%. Maxine is still really running the show, stealing the limelight from her father, whose codename the book technically holds. We find out officially that Buddy Baker's new bloody tattoos are in fact a map, a map into some force connected to every living thing in the world called "The Red." Maxine knows how to follow the map, and after changing a mean man's hand into a chicken leg, takes her dear daddy on a trip.Along the way, some hippopotami explode and eat some zoo-keepers, and Buddy and Maxine talk to animals. They reach this tree of the red, touch it, and get sucked into it, landing in a skeleton-filled Dali-esque freakshow. I have nothing funny or strange to add in the way of commentary for this book, because look at what I just typed - I'm not outdoing that.
Let's do this one in list format, shall we?
We have a definitive timeline marker: Batwing was commissioned by Batman as part of the team 8 months prior to the "now" in DCnU continuity. Think about that: Batman, Inc. has been going for eight months of continuity time, out of "approximately 5-6 years" of Batman being around. That is a huge chunk of Batman's history, being squeezed out of only about a year and a half of our time.
A black superhero with lightning powers? Paging Black Lightning and Static Shock!
Apparently, in the DCnU, if you are black and have lightning powers, you will lose an arm.
This new DC Universe is just as violent as the last, with beheadings, dismemberments, stabbings, and a hero whose goal is beating someone until they can't stand, and is self-proclaimed as fueled by rage (rightly so).Also, the long-standing tradition of villains naming themselves extremely obviously is upheld by new villain Massacre, who, for the first two issues of this book, has been massacring people. Go figure!
Detective Comics #2
"In technology, time moves at light speed." Hmm, a small bit of education here: as an object in motion approaches light speed, according to Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity, time slows down for that object, relative to the rest of the universe. So if in the tech business time moves at light speed, as Mr. Hugh Marder states, then time is moving infinitely slower than it is for everything not-tech business. Guess there's no hurry!
Nit-picking aside… in this issue, Bruce Wayne has sex! This time, there's no on-panel naughty time, just he and his partner (a reporter, not Selina Kyle) getting dressed after getting out of bed. So that can be done and get the point across, apparently. Still, Bruce, not even a month after Selina? You dirty boy.
Arkham Asylum is no longer designed like a circus fun-house, but Dr. Arkham is in charge - is he still Black Mask in this new world? I suppose we'll find out at some point. When Batman finds out about the Joker's new faceless status, he is not amused. Following clues and tracing the smell of death, he comes to the scene of two more grisly murders, only to get beatdown by more patchwork men.Finally, the new Dollmaker reveals himself, with more of his patchwork creations, including the freshly-mutilated Jim Gordon. A shiny, happy new world this is not.
Green Arrow #2
The group Oliver clashed with in issue one is back, and beat an aspiring young villain to death on camera for fun. Oliver beats up a lot of women in this issue, who he refers to as "skanks" at one point. People upset with the over-sexualization of DC's comics lately will no doubt be up in arms over male villain Rush's open-jacket, no-shirt look. Such a shame. Ollie winds up surrounded by the villainous group, streaming live online, with the promise of a beatdown and a guest star in the form of Black Canary in next issue! That's it, blink and this one is done!
Hawk and Dove #2
Two new avatars are officially named, with the all-grey costumed Osprey under the torturous control of the man-eating (literally, he states in his first section of dialogue that he's been eating people) brown color swap called Condor. When Osprey is murdered by Condor's female assistant, she absorbs his power and becomes… nope, not Osprey, but for some reason yet another different bird-named avatar of primal universal forces, the golden-hued (even her hair changes color!) Swan.
Meanwhile, Hawk and Dove finish off the "zombie soldiers" as Hawk calls them, and we find Deadman and Dove chatting a bit about their relationship (she's unique in that she can talk to him and see him when he's in ghost form, without him having to take over a body, for those not in the know). Dawn and Hank go off to a dinner honoring Hank's dad and are attacked by Condor and Swan, promising a showdown next issue between the avatars of War and Peace and the avatars of… we're guessing Cannibalism and Ugly Ducklings, but I imagine we'll find out for sure next week.
Justice League International #2
Last month's issue showed a team in a bit of disarray, without a leader 100% of them could agree on, without their most powerful recruit, Green Lantern Guy Gardner, and whose base of operations, the Hall of Justice, was destroyed. The clashing continues here, as the fledgling team gets their collective butts handed to them by a giant alien robot, only to turn tail and lick their wounds.
While they're regrouping, Skeets, Booster Gold's robot pal, broadcasts images to them of four of these giant robots, including one that Vixen recognizes is in her "native Africa!" I say that as I type this from my native North America. It is interesting to note that people in the DCnU self-identify by continent. Can't wait to see August General in Iron talking about his native Asia and Lady Godiva her native Europe when they see Japan and Germany, respectively.
After the obligatory "let's hope we're not too late" by Batman, our true villain is revealed: Thanos and Galactus's love-child, jumping ship from the Marvel Universe!
Men of War #2
Sgt. Rock gives us a bit of his history, out of order and in fragments, and none of it is really very relevant to the current-timeframe story, except that he's going in and out of consciousness after recent injuries. His nameless support team are standing shiftlessly desperately hoping he'll wake up and tell them what to do. There are approximately 20 captions explaining what people say. Then Rock and crew fall under attack, he's carried into the upper limits of the atmosphere by a woman in a scarf who reveals herself to be Circe, and dropped back to Earth where he lands in a helicopter, his body just sitting there.
O.M.A.C. now stands for One Machine Attack Construct, and is once again under control of Brother Eye, who mysteriously has the ability to talk in the first person saying "Eye" instead of "I." I guess the eye is in the ear of the beholder, or something like that. Does anyone else put way more emphasis on "eye" when they read it than they would the regular personal pronoun? Anyone? Just me? Okay, moving on.
We know now that Checkmate, the covert ops agency of the world, is still in place in the DCnU, and Cadmus is the research arm of the agency. An Editor's Note tells us Kevin called his girlfriend between issues, even though he didn't transform back into Kevin until on-panel in this issue, therefore creating the first continuity gaff of the New 52! Congrats!
The Amazing Man has been hiding in a diner and starts wreaking havoc, until Brother Eye responds with the coolest activation magic word ever, OMACTIVATE! After quite the brawl, The Amazing Man, whose main power is absorption of all sorts, gets absorbed by Brother Eye and filed away for later use. Yipe.
Oh, and Maxwell Lord is involved in all of this. That guy just loves popping up everywhere, doesn't he?
Red Lanterns #2
The surprisingly introspective Red Lantern Corps leader Atrocitus contemplates to the body of Krona, former Guardian of Oa, the nature of rage and how it should be sated. He moves swiftly to a planet that's been under siege for some time, shortly after some children are slaughtered by soldiers too lazy to see if they're actually enemies. He continues to show a benevolence, an interesting twist for a being fueled by rage, typically an emotion shown as "evil." After carrying out his vengeance, he comes to the decision that another of his Red Lanterns must be elevated, allowed to think critically like himself, but who?
Static Shock #2
The second issue begins with a replay of the final moments of #1, with Static getting his arm shot off… until of course he just pulls it back on (much to his surprise), and gets himself back in the battle quickly. Virule, the villain that attacked him with a gun that shoots DVDs and talks only in 3rd Person, runs away. The Power Rangers… er… Slaters, report in about the failure, determined to take down Static.
A diagnostic back at home base shows that Static's arm didn't just re-attach, it almost completely healed in moments. Part of the mysterious Alliance, the baddies here, is "The Pale Man" who looks (and laughs) suspiciously like the Joker, begetting some sort of connection.
At school, Static recognizes a symbol, one he sees on the Slaters' stolen mag-lev bikes before getting into a brawl with Virule again. The fight begins to go south just as the issue ends, and that's that.
This issue starts at the beginning. Of the universe, and of Adam One's life (he, like Merlin or Benjamin Button, lives in reverse. It's a thing).
Back in the present day, the young Adam One argues with Engineer about how to handle the moon, which has come alive and hostile, when it suddenly deactivates itself, returning to normal. Back on Earth, Martian Manhunter was not nearly as down-and-out as Midnighter had thought, and decides to recruit both him and his original target, Apollo. As in the first issue, Cornell and company are clearly trying to present MM as a badass, even having Midnighter flat-out call him one this time around.
This team continues to be portrayed as manipulative, and more than a little bit wretched, people. While Stormwatch battles the Moon (actually the Scourge of Worlds using the Moon to attack Earth), Harry begins to absorb the Scourge's totality of knowledge with some… questionable motivation. The King of Cities freaks out when all of Earth's cities cry out in terror, and a pod-covered octopus monster lands on the "TENK FARM" (hullo, anagram!) signaling what he says is the end of the world. Also, so much happened in the last few pages that I'm now utterly exhausted.
Swamp Thing #2
Just as Animal Man #2 dove directly into "the red," this book dives directly into "the green" as an alternate world-connecting force. Hopefully this doesn't mean we'll soon be seeing the orange, yellow, blue, indigo, and violet, only to have all of them challenged by the black and saved by the white… nah, no one would expand things to make them that complicated!
Alec Holland, the Swamp Thing we all know, has a heart-to-heart with another Swamp Thing, one who once was and is again for at least the purpose of this little chat. It seems Swamp Thing has to defend the green (and really all of life) against Sethe, the bringer of plagues, who looks a bit like a rotten chicken-man. The red gets a shout-out as well, and it's the fusion of Red and Green that makes Swamp Thing a true power.
Swamp Thing melts away, and soon after Alec is attacked by everyone at the motel he's staying at, possessed by Sethe and with their heads on backwards. It's creepy, and clearly Snyder and Lemire have a bet as to who can induce the most nightmares. Alec is saved by a mysterious girl on a motorcycle, who turns out to be the white-haired girl from his dreams, who Swamp Thing warned him to stay away from. Light's dim as she stands revealed, with Alec at gunpoint.
That's all she wrote for this week, folks. There's been violence, there have been few tender moments, there have been deepening mysteries and lots of colors. Lots and lots of colors. Hop on over to ye 'ole social networks and let us know which of these you've read, and how you feel issue #2 round one has hit your palette. See you next week!Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!