Comics Roundup

New Paneling

Ken Tucker reviews DC Comics' ''One Year Later'' series, featuring daring new versions of Batman, Aquaman, and others

The new Batman cover: the coolest in the ''One Year Later'' series
Image credit: Batman: One Year Later: DC Comics
The new Batman cover: the coolest in the ''One Year Later'' series

Your favorite superheroes, revamped! Get our take

If you read EW.com, you undoubtedly know who Superman and Batman are, but can it be assumed you know that the Superman of Earth-Two is an elderly gent, or that Robin became Nightwing? For the purposes of this column, I'm going to make a few assumptions...

Right now, DC Comics is undergoing a major creative upheaval — a big multi-part saga called ''Infinite Crisis,'' which involves just about every character in the so-called ''DC universe.'' I don't want to get into the ''Crisis'' here — hoo boy, is it complicated, albeit in a mostly good way. Instead, I want to provide a consumer guide to the very cool follow-up to ''Crisis,'' which is called ''One Year Later'': Nearly every book that DC publishes has — as of NOW — jumped one year ahead in its plotline. This levels the playing field, to some extent, for readers old and new: If you haven't been reading any of these books for a while, now's the time to climb aboard again, because we all have to guess, from inferences in dialogue and plot, what has happened to these heroes, all of whose lives have changed in some way. This stunt is pulled off better in some books than in others. Thus, this batch of reviews; all are on sale now.

Superman #650
Primarily a Clark Kent story, but thanks to writers Geoff Johns and Kurt Busiek, it's up, up, and away anyway: an apparently superpower-less Clark is faced with a green ''Kryptonite Man'' so he seeks a quiet spot and summons (spoiler alert!) Supergirl to fight the baddie. Whaaa? How did Kent — who in the final panels gets a bloodied lip from Lex Luthor — lose his powers? Tantalizing stuff, setting up Supergirl's increased importance in the DC universe. A

Green Arrow #60
Seems as though in the intervening year, the Emerald Archer has become mayor of Star City. Leaden irony: GA has long been a rebellious dude, but now he wears a black buisness suit. With a green tie. Um, gee. C-

Aquaman #40
Freshly subtitled ''Sword of Atlantis,'' Aquaman gets a clever, if complicated, origin-story reboot courtesy of writer Busiek. A guy named Arthur Curry — Aquaman's original name, but this Curry is utterly unaware of this — is pulled deep down into the ocean by a creepy old guy, the Dweller in the Depths, who tells Curry he has superpowers, a destiny, and a familiar orange-and-green outfit, plus a nice sharp sword. Also featuring a talking shark. Thanks to Busiek's narrative swiftness and artist Butch Guice's realistic way with both action sequences and talking sharks, you buy into this it's-his-destiny saga immediately. A-

Birds of Prey #92
When the semi-obscure but classic villains — Clayface, Killer Croc, the Ventriloquist — are more intriguing than the pretty Birds, you've got a comic that was just as dull as it was one year previous. D+

Detective Comics #817
First of all, easily the best cover in the ''One Year Later'' series; Simone Bianchi's close-up of Batman holding a blood-smeared Batarang alongside his face... verrry cool. Inside, James Robinson has written a fabulously resonant, new/old-school tale in a rotting Gotham City pitting Poison Ivy against Batman and — what's this? — a young-adult Robin wearing his good old red-and-yellow kiddie costume? Is this regression or a new sort of aggression? In either case: More, sirs, please — and fast! A

Catwoman #53
A superhero with a baby is a novel concept; I can't decide if it's sexist or a breakthrough that the hero chosen for parenthood is a mommy. But either way, too bad ''Catwoman,'' written like a soap opera here by Will Pfeifer, slows to a purring crawl. When the biggest mystery in a comic is who's the father of Catwoman's new little girl, you have a comic that's undermining its former film noir allure. Panel I never wanted anyone to draw: Batman holding a teddy bear for the kiddie. C-

Hawkgirl #50
When Kendra ''Hawkgirl'' Hall tells Hawkman not to be so derring-do ''foolish,'' he replies, ''Kendra, I'm a guy who wears wings, an Edgar Rice Burroughs body harness, and a hawk's head. Everything I do is foolish.'' Hawk, you had us at ''Edgar Rice Burroughs.'' What was once one of the most humorless of superhero entries has been remade as a sleek, sexy book with typically distinctive art by the incorrigably lascivious Howard Chaykin (the ish should carry a nipple-alert warning for excitable minors). B+

JSA #83
''Since the crisis, magic has been working on earth,'' says Green Lantern, picking up a theme from Infinite Crisis in this, one of the more vividly drawn and written entries in ''One Year Later'' — Rags Morales knows how to tone down excessive musculature, while author Paul Levitz gives wildly disparate protagonists such as Mr. Terrific, Wildcat, and Dr. Mid-Nite distinctive voices. Each member of the Justice Society of America is seeing ghosts, and if the initial payoff isn't great — I've never liked the corny Cockney accent of the villain, the Gentleman Ghost — this remains one of the few ''team'' comics that makes the most of conflicting superheroic moods and agendas. B+

Originally posted Mar 15, 2006
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