As a kid I was super into the Super Friends cartoon. When I was around two and three years old I would watch the episodes that my mum had taped off TV over and over along with the Christopher Reeve Superman movies over. I'd play with the action figures all the time and I got the Hall Of Justice playset from Santa (mum) one christmas. I was crazy into this shit. I remember acquiring the comics randomly and not really knowing what was going on with them and just looking at the pictures of Batman and Superman doing stuff.
Sometime in the mid-90's a comic book store opened in Gosford called The Phantom Zone. I remember going in there for the first time and flicking through the comics that were on the shelves and just being amazed by how all these characters were nothing like they were in my head. Why was Aquaman this moody guy with a beard? Why is Superman depressed? Why was the Green Lantern not Hal Jordan and instead some other guy? What's going on here? Despite my confusion, I started regularly purchasing a few different titles on a monthly basis. Then the Phantom Zone closed down and I couldn't really read comics again.
Outside of reading certain titles in trade paperback form, I haven't really kept up with comics at all, so when I heard about this DC universe reboot and launch of the New 52, I was incredibly interested to start reading a bunch of the books.
Here I will talk about a few of the (sorta) less obvious ones:
Animal Man #1
Prior to this DC reboot I didn't really know anything about Animal Man. What I gather from this issue is that Animal Man (the alter ego of Buddy Baker) has the ability to temporarily take on the powers of animals, a feat which he achieves by scanning the life web with his mind to search for suitable powers needed in that specific situation. As an example, in this particular issue a guy is about to shoot him and he takes on the power of a rhino, and charges at the bloke, knocking the gun out of his hand. He got this power after being exposed to radiation.
This story starts with an interview with Buddy Barker talking about his superhero career and his work as an animal rights activist. It then cuts to him discussing the interview with his wife, where we learn more about Buddy's unsuccessful superhero career and family life. Instantly you realise that Animal Man less about the action and more dialogue driven. To me that is one of the big things this story has going for it, that Animal Man/Buddy Baker is presented as more of a typical everyman, a guy with powers who is living in a universe that is populated with superheros. He's dealing with the rise and fall of popularity his "character" saw and the struggles he faces now.
Buddy's daughter Maxine seems like she will play a large roll in the story. Throughout the comic we witness her asking her dad to get her a dog, but he can't because if he is to form a bond with an animal it will somehow screw with his powers. There is as awesome dream sequence that is printed in black and white except for the blood and flesh which are red that shows Buddy's daughter Maxine asking him to follow her into a giant river of blood to hide from the "bad things". As Buddy wakes up he finds his wife missing and goes downstairs to see his daughter on the back lawn surrounded by dead animals and animal skeletons, I guess implying that she has developed some powers of her own.
Comic books are usually a breeze to get through, but Supergirl #1 took that to a whole new level. This was probably the quickest comic book read I've ever come across. It was super, super short.
This is what happens: The story starts with unknown voices monitoring the landing of a meteor. The meteor crashes, and the voices claim they are going to "get it". Supergirl craws out of the meteor crater all confused, not knowing where she is or what is going on. Then some men in giant mech-like robot armor, no doubt those who have been tracking the meteor, turn up and attack Supergirl. Then there are a bunch of pages that feature Supergirl getting knocked about by these robots while slowly figuring out that she is super strong due to the Earths red sun. They contain her, and she breaks free again. And then on the last page Superman shows up.
Out of all the new #1's that I have read, Supergirl is the only one that is a 100% no prior knowledge needed starting point for those who are new to comics or just new to the Supergirl character, where the reader is getting on at the ground floor. There is no entering the story at a random point of time in the midst of a fight or flashbacks to things that have happened that are important to the characters development. It's a blank canvas, and the reader will learn more as the character does.
Despite the briefness and not much happening, I thought it was great. It has intrigued me and I'll probably keep reading.
Hawk & Dove #1
This was pretty terrible. It was goofy, it was cheesy, the storytelling was really lazy... but I kinda loved it. Hawk & Dove are Hank Hall (Hawk) and Dawn Granger (Dove). Dove has the power to sense danger, and it's Hawk's job to get angry and stop it. Hawk is a strong, angry, hot headed guy, the hawk representing war and aggression, while Dove is intelligent and thoughtful, the dove representing peace and pacifism. That's symbolism if you don't get it.
The comic explains that Hawk and Dove were originally brothers Hank and Don Hall (and at some point in comics history Don died, and Dawn mysteriously took over the role, which is a story that remains a mystery up until now!), and this is where the the storytelling gets super lazy. Hank's (Hawk's) dad is changing into a suit and for some reason Hank (Hawk) starts talking about the death of his brother and how they originally became Hawk and Dove.
And the Hawk and Dove origin story is nothing short of brilliant! As children Don and Hanks dad is about to get killed by some villain. Don and Hank are there and get locked away in a storage closet. Don angrily says "I wish I had the power to get us out of here right now and go and save dad" when all of a sudden the god's appear and say "POWER? YOU WISH FOR POWER?" (Click.) The kids are made to say some magic words, and they're instantly turned into Hawk and Dove, bust out of the closet and go and save their dad.
In this particular story the main plot is about Hawk and Dove dealing with a scientist who is breeding zombies to destroy things like the Washington Monument to make a political statement of some kind. And there's a little bit about how Dove is banging the DC character Deadman.
It's goofy as fuck, but I like it.
This comic starts out with a murder. A mysterious villain, known only as The Mirror, kills a guy with a garden hose. We find out he is killing people off of a list, and that next on the list is the daughter of Commissioner Gordon, Barbara. On the next page we find out that Barbara Gordon is in fact Batgirl. This is shown on a big double splash page which features some sweet artwork of Batgirl swinging through the air.
Next we're introduced to a gang of masked killers, who are terrorizing a family. Batgirl busts through the window and beats them all up, logically thinking through every step of the melee. She's internal monologuing about how she is "rusty" which leads to a flashback of her getting shot in the spine by the Joker which we find out left her wheelchair bound for three years. This story kind of follows on from events that happened in the classic Batman graphic novel The Killing Joke.
We see Barbara Gordon leaving her dads house and moving in with her new housemate, an activist. There's an extremely cringe worthy moment where when getting to know her new room mate, she is talking about how she is a political artist and points to her wall and the words "FIGHT THE POWER" are written there in big red letters. I guess it's supposed to be funny that the loving daughter of a cop is living with a hippy activist, but it was the lamest thing in the world to me.
I'm a fan of the incompetent, inexperienced superhero who is completely in over their head, so this was kinda cool.
If you have ever had any interest in the characters of the DC universe this is a great chance to start reading these books from a logical starting point.