First Looks At DC’s New 52: The Third Wave

Finally, here are my First Looks at the new comics I started reading from DC’s “third wave” of recent releases. These launched in September, conveniently coinciding with DC’s month of 0-numbered issues, so they could provide a simple introduction right away. In fact, the month was structured that way at least in part to help promote these new comics, which seems like a lot of effort to go to for just four new series. Despite DC’s efforts, though, the rumors I’ve heard are that some of them are pretty much dead on arrival. There will be a couple successes from the new launches, but it seems that fans are only trying the ones tied to big-name characters or events. Those early days of the New 52, in which obscure characters and ideas actually had a shot, may be over.

After writing sixteen other comic reviews this week already, this article will be mercifully short. I have only been reading two of the four new series. Unless new titles deserving a First Look appear soon, I’ll probably wait about a year after this before I check back on the DC Universe.

cover to Sword of Sorcery #0

Sword of Sorcery

Sword of Sorcery

(Based on issues #0-2)

Sword of Sorcery features Amethyst, a magical princess whose old children’s stories still have a cult following. The rebooted version is aimed at a slightly older audience, apparently responding to the Young Adult fantasy craze that neither DC nor Marvel have yet figured out how to take advantage of. This “mature” approach has included two rape threats in the first three issues, which has drawn a lot of scorn from people who had been excited about this. It seems to me like those were presented appropriately for the target audience, but the early and repeated threat of sexual violence makes me wonder if author Christy Marx has enough ideas to keep this going. (Also, Sword of Sorcery is one of those anthology series with a higher price and an additional back-up story. This one is a retelling of Beowulf in a post-apocalyptic world with genetically engineered monsters. I’m enjoying it, but it’s not necessarily what would appeal to Amethyst’s audience. Does anyone wonder why DC fails to reach YA readers?)

Otherwise, the story is decent but generic. Not having read the original, I can’t say if this new version changes very much. It takes place in “Gemworld”, where various houses of power are associated with different gemstones. The protagonist, a princess of House Amethyst hidden on Earth until her seventeenth birthday, is now learning about the world and her own magic while being hunted by a power-mad aunt. The houses are silly, but not necessarily worse than the colored powers in Green Lantern. Much of the action and dialog (especially formal rituals of the kingdom) feel stilted, but it does find a natural voice for the teens in the story. Long-term, I think this could work once the characters and world have been established, but I’m doubtful that it will be given enough time.

Grade: C+

cover to Talon #0



(Based on issues #0-2)

The Court of Owls is the one of the most interesting additions to the DC Universe over the past year, and this new series follows a renegade Talon (assassin) who now wants to destroy the secret society. The more we see of the Court of Owls’ scope (and their super-villain vindictiveness), the harder it becomes to accept that they stayed secret for so long. It’s still fertile ground for a new series, though. Escape artist Calvin Rose is a good character, and poorly-defined secret societies offer a lot of story-telling potential.

The unfolding story is decent so far, but the execution is lacking. You see, Batman author Scott Snyder is credited with the “plot”, but James Tynion IV is the series writer. Tynion’s dialog is full of tough-guy lines that I can’t take seriously. (When an opponent points out that she just broke one of Calvin’s ribs, he responds, “Yeah, well, this is your freaking head!”) The art is by Guillem March, whom I used to praise. After embarrassing himself with Catwoman art bad enough to go viral, though, I’m just relieved that he is now on a series with few chances for cheesecake. He does dynamic figure-work, and keeps the panels exciting, though he no longer feels like the draw he once was.

Issue #2 was better, if only because the creative team was mixed up a little. Snyder shared full co-author credit this time, and the writing (which established a complex and interesting dynamic between Calvin and a supporting character) was fine. Juan Jose Ryp filled in on the art. His insanely detailed work is great, but he usually appears in hyper-violent stories I don’t bother with. I’d be happy to see more from him here.

If I thought Sword of Sorcery was weak but showed potential, I worry that this may have already peaked. March is still the long-term artist instead of Ryp, and Snyder is a busy man who will probably be less involved with this as time goes on. This series will be given time to prove itself (its Batman connection draws a lot more readers than Amethyst), but the main author will need to improve quickly.

Grade: C+

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  2. Do you remember the action movies in the 90s? There was a Rambo – like leading character (usually played by Stallone himself, or by Schwarzenegger) forced to fight against innumerous enemies: any other man would have been doomed, but our hero, with his guns, muscles, fight techniques and (last but not least) brain, was always able to find a way out.
    Grifter is exactly like this: no matter how many enemies he has to face and how complicated their plans are, you can be sure he will find a solution to all his problems. Like Batman, a big part of Grifter’s charm is his talent in getting out of troubles despite being a normal person, without superpowers. There’s only one, big difference between them: Batman is a hunter, while Grifter is a prey – but he’s the shiftiest prey you’ve ever met.
    Grifter’s solo series is about to close, but luckily he’s also a supporting character of a “Third Wave” series, Team 7.
    Team 7 really reminds me of the Extreme comics that have been published in the 90s (Bloodstrike, Brigade, Youngblood and so on): both in them and in Team 7 there is a group of anti – heroes being all full of muscles, weapons and pouches. Also, Team 7 members fight their enemies in a room having high ceilings and walls made with blue metal, exactly like in those 90s comics.
    They were awful, so I should be disappointed seeing them resurrecting 20 years later, with a different name and a major publishing them. On the contrary, I am delighted. Do you know why? Because those 90s comics are so bad they are good, exactly like Team 7.

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