DCU: The Promise (or Disappointment) of a Brave New World

A column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Keith Dallas

The 80 page $1 DCU: Brave New World Special promotes six upcoming DC titles: Martian Manhunter by A.J. Lieberman with art by Al Barrionuevo, OMAC by Bruce with art by Renato Guedes, Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti with art by Daniel Acuña, The Creeper by Steve Niles with art by Justiniano and Walden Wong, The All-New Atom by Gail Simone with art by John Byrne and Trevor Scott, and The Trials of Shazam! by Judd Winick with art by Howard Porter.

I assigned SBC’s reviewers to write short reports to indicate which upcoming title they think looks the most promising (or the most disappointing), based on their reading of this Brave New World Special.

Their responses follow:

Michael Aronson: Sadly, the six stories of Brave New World range from fairly crappy to crap supreme, and since it’s hard to recommend the pile of feces that reeks the least, I might as well draw attention to the cream of the crap.

Bruce Jones’ eleven-page OMAC story opens in the most unimaginative way to begin a story, a convention Jones has used in far too many of his stories: a guy wakes up next to a mysterious girl and doesn’t remember who she is, where he is or anything that’s going on. Passive protagonist meets mysterious exposition speaker and both run from vaguely evil forces, only to end in a cliché worse than the opener: waking up from a dream. Throw in terrible dialogue like “You the boss!” “I . . . guess you could say I’m your girlfriend,” not to mention the immortal “ZITTT-POP!” and suddenly Jones’ writing on Nightwing doesn’t seem so bad.

If the story itself wasn’t so painfully insulting to anyone over the age of four, it’s still a massive disappointment that DC would assign the stunning work of Renato Guedes to illustrate this shlock. This guy’s a superstar artist, and no one seems to have noticed it yet. I don’t know how good his English is, but I hope for his sake that he never read the script.

Michael Bailey: I could go into pecifics on each of the stories in this anthology and how the crisis of infinite Monitors at he end just bugged the heck out of me, but this isn’t that type of party. The purpose of this exercise is to pick one story that I liked and explain why I think it shows promise.

I really dug Judd Winick’s preview of The Trials of Shazam! I’ve been a pretty big fan of the Marvel family for years now, and I have been happy with the treatment Captain Marvel had been receiving at the hands of Geoff Johns in the pages of JSA. Judd Winick has also been doing some great things with Captain Marvel Junior, and he didn’t do such a bad job with the elder Captain Marvel in the Superman titles and the First Thunder mini-series.

Not a whole heck of a lot happened over the course of the eleven pages that this story was allotted, but the tease was enough to make it worthwhile. I was a bit put off by the death of the wizard Shazam in Day of Vengeance but unlike some of the other changes being made throughout the DCU, this one actually advances the characters and allows them to evolve beyond their current state in a manner that makes sense for that character. Change is good as long as it serves a purpose and serves the character. Change isn’t good when a character suddenly starts killing people because Daddy had a bunch of other daughters that he didn’t tell her about.

Winick set up his series well and showed how problematic things are going to be for Freddy and especially for Mary. I liked the cliffhanger feel he gave to the scene where Mary lost her powers. I also loved the fact that they are fighting magic based villains, which is in keeping with the direction Winick took both Billy and Freddy in addition to what Bill Willingham accomplished in Day of Vengeance. By riding the line between straight-up super heroics and magic, the Marvel Family might end up distinguishing themselves from the rest of the DCU and give them a shot at keeping a title.

Howard Porter’s artwork was a nice departure from his previous efforts. I loved his work on JLA but he seems to have stepped in his game. The coloring gave the art a, pardon the pun, magical quality, which meshed well with the story’s tone. Overall, I liked this story, and this is the one maxi-series I am most looking forward to.

Kevin T. Brown: The question was asked, which of these projects presented in DC’s Brave New World looking the most promising or the most disappointing? And in their own way, they’re all promising, save one. Unfortunately, The Creeper just is not to my tastes. Having read a few articles about the premise and who the creative team was going to be, I thought that the Creeper might finally be getting back to his roots, so to speak. Here I was hoping, once again based on previously read articles, of the Creeper being based on what Steve Ditko did. Based on this preview, that’s readily apparent to not be the case. Once again, DC has found a way to muck up a character and take away what I feel to be the most interesting part of him: the fun. I’ll be giving this one a pass….

Charles Emmett: I picked up Brave New World with one thing on my mind, The Creeper. Ever since his appearances on Batman the Animated Series, I loved the Creeper’s sense of mischief and zaniness. When I heard that he was getting his own new series, and it would be previewed in Brave New World, I went crazy with anticipation. Hopefully, it would be the fun, zany sort of Creeper that television series presented, but now that I’ve read BNW, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed. The art in the segment is pretty good. Not Alex Ross or Jim Lee “blow you outta your seat” great, but merely good. The style fits the character, and thankfully they didn’t portray him as over the top and totally whacked out. But then again, that’s exactly what I wanted.

Instead, what we got was Batman in a green and black thong and a red boa. Seriously, this Creeper ain’t funny. However, I like the whole Jack Ryder aspect on the story. It makes it feel more original than it would have been with just the Creeper himself. I mean, what self respecting superhero leads a crusade against himself? That in itself may get me to pick up the next issue. The art for this story is pretty good, not as good as the Captain Marvel segment, but good enough for its own purposes. It’s very much in line with the “DC mainstream” style that is seemingly in vogue right now.

In all, this was a fine segment, and well worth my $1 when placed with all the others, but I hope the tongue in cheek style of former Creeper stories manages to find its way into this one before all is said and done, or else it just isn’t going to be worth anyone’s while

Kelvin Green: To someone like me who’s never had much interest in the DC stable of characters, this introduction to the new-look DCU could be either a complete waste of time and money, or just the kind of jumping-on point I need.

Sadly, it edges toward the former. I detected some vague glimmers of interest while being introduced to the new Martian Manhunter, but even that tale has the generic and unimaginative feel that’s prevalent throughout the comic; none of the strips show any real sign of a desperately exciting new direction, merely a bit of minor tweaking here and there. Ironically, what piques my interest most is the one page ad for the crime thriller Rush City, which betrays an obvious Grand Theft Auto influence, but at least isn’t just an old DCU concept dusted-off and given a superficial bit of polish before heading for inevitable cancellation within two years. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing irredeemably awful on show here, and some of these vignettes might very well make for entertaining titles. But nor is there anything here which is anywhere near as bold or innovative as the ostentatious title and ever-so-slightly-smug editorial claim. Just the same old same old, which should be fine for long-term DCUers, but it’s not going to win me over.

Jim Kingman: The Atom, by Gail Simone, John Byrne, and Trevor Scott, is my favorite of the bunch, which is ironic because it was the one I was initially most wary of, and that’s strictly because I’m a big fan of Ray Palmer as the Atom. But I found everything about this tale entertaining: the story, the art, the narration, the dialogue, and the scientific quotes as footnotes. The footnotes were a nice touch, especially the one by “Dr.” Groucho Marx. The new series starts next week, and I look forward to it.

Diana Kingston: My pick for most promising debut is The All-New Atom, by Gail Simone and John Byrne. Consider the following points:

It’s the only Brave New World entry that makes good on DC’s promise to lighten things up; everyone else is just delivering more of the same angstapalooza.

It’s the only story that doesn’t rely on pre-existing characters, so if you’re looking for the most ideal and accessible starting point, this is it.

Simone knows how to use the space allocated to her, which bodes well for the upcoming monthly. Starting with a blank slate means she can skip the contextual exposition every other entry is loaded with, and instead deliver a simple, complete adventure story. In other words, she doesn’t just tell us where she wants to go, she shows us.

And finally, The All-New Atom mixes Simone’s humorous charm with high concepts from Grant Morrison; it’s a powerful combination, and one that outweighs Byrne’s artwork (which, at my most charitable, I can only deem “wonky”).

It’s funny, it’s brand-new, it’s imaginative, and for the politically-minded, it has an Oriental protagonist. What more do you want?

Robert Murray: I think the Brave New World title with the most potential is Uncle Sam & the Freedom Fighters by Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti. From this eleven page introduction, I can discern that this title will have a lot of political intrigue ripped from today’s headlines, conspiracies, and heroic themes generated from Infinite Crisis. However, it also looks like there will be a great deal of humor present, from the spoof humor of Uncle Sam to the antics of the new Ray, who craves playing up to the camera more than actually fighting crime. Yeah, I’m a fan of Gray & Palmiotti’s work on Jonah Hex and other titles, but the talent that has me excited about this series is Daniel Acuna’s. I haven’t seen any of his work before, but if this introduction is any indication of his abilities, then this series will not only be compelling but beautifully rendered as well. Uncle Sam & the Freedom Fighters looks like the kind of wacky entertainment that the regular DC Universe needs!

Jason Sacks: Which of these projects seems most promising?

I’m somewhat biased on this front, because The Creeper is one of my favorite DC characters. I loved the original Ditko run on the character and even enjoyed the revival of the character about ten years back. There’s something about the bizarre and unique look of the character that I find really compelling, not to mention that the Creeper is borderline insane. I also like that the Creeper’s alter ego, Jack Ryder, is a nasty sumbitch himself. So all that I needed to see in this preview was for Steve Niles and Justiniano to hit those classic bits. They certainly do that, and provide some subtle twists. I love it that Ryder, who once espoused Steve Ditko’s libertarian views, now is a liberal gadfly in the Bill O’Reilly tradition. I like how Ryder is constantly fighting off the madness of the Creeper within himself. And I think the last-panel twist is fun and clever.

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