The first round of collections from DC's "The New 52" initiative featured the publisher's strongest characters and titles. Now we're reaching a little deeper into the catalog, with much more mixed results.
Which is not to belittle the Flash, a strong character with a strong title, whose first "New 52" collection was mysteriously pushed to November. (The rest of his Justice League colleagues, from Aquaman to Wonder Woman, have already had collections released.) "The Flash Volume 1: Move Forward" ($24.99) collects the first seven issues of the Scarlet Speedster's "New 52" title and it's a solid title.
The new Flash is police scientist Barry Allen, similar to the Barry Allen who helped launch the superhero revival of the 1960s known to comics fans as the "Silver Age." (There were a couple of other Flashes in the '80s and '90s.) But whereas the original Barry was one of the first of the heroes who would later form the Justice League, this one seems a bit younger and a lot less experienced. The result is that this Flash is constantly learning new things about his super-speed, including the novel idea of super-fast thinking called "augmented cognition," which proves to be a mixed blessing.
That dovetails nicely with the Flash legacy; the '60s version was forever thinking of clever and exciting new ways to use his power besides just running fast. But that Barry carried the reputation of being boring, whereas the new one has more mystery, a bit more personality and a much more complicated love life.
All of which grabbed me. What didn't was the fairly pedestrian superhero aspects of the seven issues included in "Move Forward," where the Wizard of Whiz battled a multiplying man named Mob Rule and upgraded versions of traditional Flash foes Captain Cold and the Top (now called Turbine). It's strange for this old superhero fan to say, but I'll be back not for the super-speed antics, but for the lingering mysteries about Barry's past, the fate of his father and how his current romantic triangle will be resolved.
Speaking of Justice League members, one of the early "New 52" collections was "Green Lantern," which was terrific. I had intended to ignore the three other Green Lantern-related titles until I discovered that all four titles will be required reading for a major event in 2013 called "Rise of the Third Army." So I picked up "Green Lantern Corps Volume 1: Fearsome" ($22.99), "Green Lantern -- New Guardians Volume 1: The Ring Bearer" ($22.99) and "Red Lanterns Volume 1: Blood and Rage" ($14.99) -- and discovered that my first instinct was the right one.
"Red Lanterns" was actually boring! The supposedly terrifying Red Lantern leader, Atrocitus, spent all the issues in this collection wandering around a deserted planet talking to himself, trying to decide what to do. In short, here's a big, bad supervillain playing Hamlet.
"New Guardians" is the best of the bunch, with solid art and writing. Meanwhile, "Justice League Dark Volume 1: In the Dark" ($14.99) was a fun book whose concept is to team up supernatural characters to fight magic-based threats that the "regular" Justice League is ill-equipped to battle.