"Actually, a simple "Thanks Black guy for saving us from a homicidal lunatic wearing weaponized body armor' will do."
- Mr. Terrific
One of DC Comics' Co-Publisher Dan Didio's stated goals for the relaunch of the entire line was add a little diversity to the universe. "The New 52," as the launch is being called, has given us a rarity, three books with Black characters as the lead. I decided to take a look at the first issues of these books and see how they stack up.
Batwing #1: "The Cradle of Civilization"
I was very nervous about this book. Coming out of Grant Morrison's Batman Incorporated, I was excited that Batwing, the Batman of Africa, was going to get his own book. When I saw Judd Winick was handling the writing chores, my expectations for the book immediately lowered. That may not be fair but I am not a fan of Winick's superhero work. I find his scripts to be a bit heavy-handed and was concerned that his handling of African characters and sociopolitical issues would annoy me. While my concerns may be ultimately justified, the first issue of Batwing was pretty great.
Batwing is David Zamvimbi, a police officer in Tinasha in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His setup is similar to Daredevil or Nightwing (for the brief time he was a police officer in Blüdhaven) where he's trying to fight crime from the legal and vigilante angles. Batman appears in the book to assist David with the detective work and building the fear of Batwing amongst criminals. I've always been a fan of Ben Oliver's artwork and he doesn't disappoint in this book. I thought Winnick spent too much dialogue trying to established how dangerous and corrupt Tinasha was but given that it was the first issue, I'll give him a pass. Most of the "New 52" debut issues end on a cliffhanger but the last page of this book definitely hooks you in for the next issue.
Static Shock #1: "Recharged"
I'm thrilled that the late Dwayne McDuffie's most popular creation, Static, made the cut for the DC relaunch. Static was supposed to be a Spider-Man like character with witty banter and a drama-filled personal life. That vibe is even stronger now with Virgil Hawkins and his family relocating from Dakota to New York City.
Writer John Rozum (former Milestone Comics writer) and co-writer/artist Scott McDaniel drops us right in the middle of the action without much setup for anyone unfamiliar with Static. As a result, there is a lot of internal dialogue explaining the action and Static's powers. I found it very distracting but that could just be my familiarity with the character. McDaniel's kinetic art is a perfect fit for Static. I'm glad we got to see Virgil's home life and attempts to adjust to his new situation. While I enjoy Static's adventures, I've always found Virgil trying to navigate between his superhero and social lives more interesting.
Something that was a pleasant surprise was the appearance of fellow Milestone Comics hero, Hardware. In this universe, he is Static's benefactor, providing him new equipment, gaining him employment at STAR Labs and offering assistance in his crime fighting. Off the bat, their relationship is reminiscent of Bruce Wayne and Terry McGinnis in Batman Beyond. I hope we learn more about Hardware as the book goes on, particularly why he only appears as a digital construct.
Mister Terrific #1: "Software Update"
While reading the first issue of Mister Terrific, it occured to me how few geniuses there are in the DC Universe. What seems like a staple in the Marvel Universe (Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Bruce Banner, Amadeuo Cho), it's rare to have a hero in DC whose strength is his intellect. For that reason, i found Mister Terrific refreshing. A member of the Justice Society of America, this incarnation of the character has him riding solo. Writer Eric Wallace quickly establishes Michael Holt's abilities and motivations for his heroism. I thought the pencils by Gianluca Gugilotta were good but a little busy in spots. Some scenes had too much going on.
This was the first issue to actually touch on race (aside from the line quoted at the top) as there is a confrontation between Karen, a white friend and peer of Michael's, and African-American female co-worker. Unfortunately, it was sloppily handed as the dialogue was a little too on-the-nose. Regardless, this has the potential to be a pretty exciting book.
I was very satisfied with all three of these debuts and think the "New 52" is off to a great start. However, I would be remiss if i did not state my extreme disappointment with the new Amanda Waller. The original Amanda Waller is a heavy-set Black woman who ran various clandestine groups and even worked for the President in the DC universe. Even though she didn't have the average buxom comic book figure, she was a strong character who went toe-to-toe with anyone who got in her way. So imagine my surprise when i got to the end of Suicide Squad and saw that Ms. Waller is now... well... this.