Zeroing In: DC Zero Issues Reviewed (Part I)

 

It’s Zero Month at the DC offices, which means it’s time for the company to drop everything, roll out the red carpet and really pander to attract new readers, with a set of fresh jumping-on points. And all this month, I’ll be taking a look at select #0 issues from the company. But can DC really replicate the financial success from last years’ #1 issue sales explosion? Will I continue to scoff at and ignore the laughable addition of Baz, a gun-wielding, Detroit-based green Lantern, to the ensemble? And has Geoff Johns finally succeeded in warping the classic DC Universe into something both smelling of and uncannily resembling fecal matter? Read on to find out!

Detective Comics #0

Detective Comics #0Before becoming Batman ten years ago, Bruce Wayne travelled the world, training in various dojos to become one of the greatest warriors the world has ever known. In his travels, he encounters one particular village in the Himalayas, where he is taught to control his emotions to keep himself from getting hurt. But after meeting a friendly woman in the village, he begins to stray and must learn what it means to be human the hard way. Also included is the backup story, “The Long Wait”, where Alfred rebuffs the takeover of Wayne Manor at the hands of the Kane family while waiting for Bruce to return home.

With the abysmal Tony S. Daniel off writing duties for which he was so incredibly ill-suited for, I knew I had to check out the latest in Batman’s premiere series. Luckily, Daniel’s pencils aren’t nearly as bad as his dialogue, and thus Detective Comics #0 proves a slightly more tolerable read. Still, Hurwitz isn’t a particularly significant improvement; the issue delves heavily into cliché, failing to tell us anything particularly meaningful about Bruce’s character, or that hasn’t already been done time and time again.

I liked “The Long Wait” a little better, because it’s an interesting angle to explore. What did Alfred do while Bruce was away all that time? And sure, the Kane family has always been a part of the Batman mythos, but, and I apologize if I’m pointing out something already obvious as I’m not intimately familiar with the family in the comics, could their potential takeover of Wayne Manor be a subtle dig at Batman artist Bob Kane and his usurping credit for creating the character from writer Bill Finger? If so, it’s a clever parallel, and one I only began to think about upon a second read.

Other than that, there’s simply not much to this book. In the wake of Scott Snyder’s Batman continually wowing readers, it seems Detective Comics is sort of falling by the wayside. Mass indifference all-around.

G.I. Combat #0

gi-combat-0In an effort to learn about his storied past, the Unknown Soldier is taken through an archive of his past identities, pondering the possibility of reincarnation and even being put under to re-experience some of these lives himself. Meanwhile, a break-in at a nuclear facility causes trouble for US Intelligence.

I’ve been surprised at the real staying power of G.I. Combat thus far. Palmiotti and Gray’s Unknown Soldier has been a particularly fantastic read…that is, up until now. Issue #0 reads like a editorially mandated side story, taking us in a completely unimportant direction before getting back to the present-day plot. The origin stuff is especially irritating because, if you’re well-versed in these kinds of stories, you already know that they’ll never actually answer any of the questions they pose.

Honestly, I think instead of this, they should’ve just spread the “origin” out naturally through the run, maybe tying in the various story arcs to the Soldier himself and gradually giving us clues as to who he really is/was and maybe even how the program he’s a part of began. Simply guiding us through a room of masked/bandaged guys in various wars as Issue #0 does isn’t interesting when the narrative hasn’t called for it, and especially when we know that in the end it’s all just a big tease.

The other book, JT Krul’s The War that Time Forgot, fares even worse. While I enjoyed its brainlessness for the first four issues, Issue #0 is content to wrap it up in a mere ten-page epilogue that delivers possibly one of the most unsatisfying conclusions ever. How exactly do you set up a premise of dinosaurs living in present-day on a secret island near Korea and take it absolutely nowhere? I don’t blame Krul, because it’s obvious editorial axed him in favor of the new arc and new creative team taking his place next month, but still, how can anyone look at where this story ended up and say, “Well, this looks good. I think we can call it quits right about here”?

The artwork is consistently solid at least, but the accompanying storytelling is lackluster and ultimately trivial. G.I. Combat is a book that really didn’t need an Issue #0, and it shows.

Not recommended.

The Phantom Stranger #0

Phantom Stranger 0Hinting at the character’s biblical origins, The Phantom Stranger #0 recounts the events that befell the character in DC’s Free Comic Book Day story earlier this year, which saw him cursed to live a life wandering on Earth until he’s needed for some predetermined task that will allow him to pay for his sins. When that day finally arrives, the Stranger must seek out Gotham police officer Jim Corrigan and send him on his own destined path.

I’ve never been intimately familiar with the Phantom Stranger, having only read his appearances in the first couple issues of John Byrne’s Superman run. But with the Free Comic Book Day story changing the status quo in surprisingly intriguing ways, I figured I’d give this new book a chance. I’m glad I did; Phantom Stranger #0 is a mysterious, engaging read, shining especially brightly in Brent Anderson’s deliciously shadowy pencils. Sure, Dan DiDio’s writing often trails into stereotypical pulp (a character actually speaks, “What sort of trick is this?”), but it’s more about storytelling, atmosphere, and a fresh new direction for the character that really leaves me wanting more.

From what I understand, the character hasn’t ever received a definitive origin, but as a newcomer largely unfamiliar with his pre-New 52 incarnation, I like it. And while I don’t agree with a lot of what DC’s doing to their characters in the New 52, I can’t deny the company’s ability to really hook new readers on obscure C-list characters like the Stranger with such exciting surprises. Very much looking forward to reading more.

Recommended.

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