NEW 52 NEWBIE Reviews: Non-Comics Readers on the DCnU

The Q: Clues to the DCnU - BATMAN

DC says they're after new and lapsed readers with their line-wide reboot The New 52... so, we went out and got them some new and lapsed readers.

As part of a network over a dozen content websites ranging from varied topics like space, science, health, technology, and the mysteries of life, Newsarama has dozens of colleagues from all walks of life within elbow distance who either have never read a comic book or haven't read a comic book for some time. So we thought, why not have them review some of the first titles of the DCnU, see what they think, and perhaps more importantly, whether they have been coaxed to stick around.

So here's a just a sampling of a few reactions from DC target audience. Look for more "newbie reviews" as we get them...



by Joel Pisetzner

Some comics inevitably exist outside any given reader’s consciousness. To a habitué of the mainstream, “Frankenstein – Agent of S.H.A.D.E.” No. 1 materializes like some sort of office cooler joke. Perhaps at its conception it was, the result of someone channeling his inner Jack Kirby while trying to avoid returning to his desk. It turns out to be a terrific book because, like its main character, it’s broadly stitched together from various parts and the creators enjoy letting the seams show.

The cover itself is a hoot, with the famous monster, hereby known as “Super-Agent Frankenstein” or merely “Frank,” accompanied by four-armed Vedic vixen and a minx straight out of manga, both wielding handguns. (One turns out to be his wife, the other his boss. ) A peek inside reveals that their headquarters is indeed Kirby-like, microscopic and manned by artificial servants  with 24-hour life spans.  The Alberto Ponticelli art is ragged and elaborate, full of not-quite parallel lines and lots of wrinkles, creases and smoke, most of it dull green and gray and tan (Frank’s brooding comments themselves appear in greenish bubbles), adding to the patched-together look.

The villains that Frank’s team tackles in this storyline are giant monsters. In fact, the villains in an awful lot of the “new 52” D.C. books are giant monsters, as if they were afterthoughts -- the byproduct of putting so much creative effort into reinventing the heroes. However, in a book where the good guys themselves are monsters, this is quite all right. 

There is enough humor, mayhem and imagination here to encourage any given reader to linger outside the mainstream. I’ll be checking out the next issue.

Joel Pisetzner, a copy editor for TechMediaNetwork, was an avid DC reader as a kid, whose world was rattled when the cover price was raised from 10 cents to 12 cents. Adding Spider-Man and Hulk to his habit with their debut, Joel stayed connected through his college years (mainly through Conan), but fell off the wagon in the mid-1970s. He says he’s bought maybe a dozen random issues since 1985 (“plus a few from that DC multiverse holocaust”) and never found anything to pull him back in.



by Stephanie R. Myers

As a kid growing up in the '80s, I harbored a borderline alarming obsession with all things Batman — including the old Adam West series, the comic books, and even a particularly profound distress upon discovering Robin got killed off. Suffice it to say, life has since intervened and I have not gotten the chance to keep up with the Caped Crusader's print-based adventures. Enter DC Comics' ploy to bring old fans such as myself back (and garner new ones) by reinventing their heroes' origins. While the road to recreation has the potential be a bumpy one, the decision to start characters back at square one seems to be a calculated — but wise — risk on the part of the publisher.

In issue No. 1 of "Batman and Robin," we enter the action finding that Robin is now Batman's son. I was surprised by this development (even though a little background research revealed that this change technically happened in the 2009 miniseries "Batman: Battle for the Cowl"), but intrigued — it didn't fit my initial assumptions at all, which I liked. Even better, Robin is a petulant, angry kid, resisting the traditional Robin-as-the-obedient-sidekick role with all his strength. (And really, why wouldn't he? Trying on a little bravado for size never hurt anyone, kid.)

So congrats, DC. You have my attention now. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel? Sure; it's entirely likely that I'll be checking out the next installment.

Stephanie R. Myers, a copy editor for TechMediaNetwork, will always love Batman.



by Rachael Rettner

If DC is looking for new readers, I am it. I've never read a comic book set in the DC Universe before. I've also never heard of Animal Man, which of course makes me the perfect person to write this review.

Issue number 1 starts with an interview of the main character, Buddy Baker, in the form of a fictional magazine article. It takes up the whole page. Wow, that's a lot of words. Comic books shouldn't have this many words! Where are the pictures and iconic word bubbles? But I really liked this beginning. It gave you gave you insight into this character without requiring you to know his back-story or even what his powers were.

Over the rest of the issue, DC was true to its word in keeping the writing geared towards the layman. Besides one reference to the Justice League (really people, I'm that much of a newbie), the narrative was digestible to a comic-book outsider like me. The plot definitely kept me turning the pages. And the ending genuinely creeped me out.

About that ending. I think they were going for cliffhanger, but it left me more confused than in suspense. The scene seemed rather ominous, but for me, kind of obscure. But maybe I'm a little dense.

To be completely honest, I wasn't sucked into the DC Universe by Animal Man. I'm not dying to read the next issue. As I said, I was a little confused by the ending. But I'm willing to give it a chance. Maybe I just need a little more to go on. I assume arch nemeses and gripping emotional and physical battles are to come.

I also have a lot of questions I would like to see answered. How did Animal Man get his powers? What is the morphogenetic field? And is his daughter possessed, or does she just like to play with feral animal zombies? I think my curiosity was peaked enough to at least read a few more issues before I decide if I want to become a committed reader, or stay more of a dilettante.

Rachael Rettner, a staff writer for MyHealthNewsDaily, is brand new to the world of comic books. She has previously read, and enjoyed, just one other series (Y: The Last Man).



by Natalie Wolchover

In the new DC Comics series "Batgirl," we meet the main character, Barbara Gordon, at the dawn of her career as a Gotham superheroine. The fiery young redhead packs a mean punch; we're told she was Batman's star student.

In issue #1, we also meet a villain killing one victim after another and crossing their names off a list. Gordon's name is on it, too; we don't yet know why (though we may have our suspicions). The plot thickens from here on out.

It seems that Batgirl's biggest weakness — as a fighter, not as a character — is a case of post-traumatic stress that developed after she was shot in the gut years earlier. In all likelihood, saving Gotham from the aforementioned villain will require that she overcome her panicky fear of the barrel end of a gun.

As a comic book newbie, I was surprised to find myself quickly drawn in. As a comic book newbie who is also a writer, I enjoyed the multiple modes of expression available in this medium — the liberal mix of pictures, dialogue, facial expressions and internal thought boxes.

Like anyone, I appreciate a compelling character. Batgirl asks herself at one point: "Should heroes ever be this scared?" The pathos worked on me. I can definitely see myself perusing the next issue.

Natalie Wolchover is a staff writer at Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to Newsarama. She once read a few Spider-Man comics as a child, but the habit didn't stick.



by Joel Pisetzner

A bolt of common sense has struck the caretakers of Green Arrow: “It’s the arrows, stupid.” A character whose weapons originally included shafts tipped with boxing gloves managed to step away from the kiddies table by becoming DC’s first certifiable head case (perhaps pushed over the edge by discovering his ward was a drug addict). But pretty soon every superhero was awash in his or her own psychological demons, and poor rich Ollie Queen had lost his cache. So what’s a still-blonder/blander version of Bruce Wayne to do?

Well, as long as Mr. Queen is going to be the most dead-eyed archer this side of Sagittarius, you’ve got to run with it. And this No. 1 story does. GA’s got a high-tech support team in Seattle whose support stops short of enthusiasm for his taste for danger; these supporting characters, including a conscience-stricken weapons developer, have lots of promise on their own. So does the running high-tech vs. low-tech theme.

Despite all the modern gadgetry like thermal scanning at the command of Ollie and his Q-Core staff, it’s a good old-fashioned trick shot – two arrows at once, each impaling a palm of the enemy at hand – that’s the highlight of this opening exploit. The book itself seems to honor DC’s roots, neatly drawn (Jurgens and Perez, two dependable pros) and clearly paneled, with plenty of room for the dialogue – a great balance. If DC is looking to attract young new readers, Green Arrow is the perfect point man.

In fact, I’ll be giving No. 2 a look myself. 

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