Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  This week, Bennett takes a look at DC’s attempt to launch a new line of characters, and at Man of Steel #1. 

Last week  (see “Confessions of a Comic Book Guy -- Why There Are Always New Superheroes”), I wrote how in spite of the fact the mainstream comic book industry continues to revolve around them, it’s extremely difficult for publishers to create new  superheroes that can sustain a title of their own  I did that  because I wanted to write about The New Age of DC Heroes  (The Silencer, Sideways, The Terrifics. Damage, The Immortal Men, The Curse of Brimstone, New Challengers and The Unexpected), but I kind of ran out of space.

One of the interesting things about this new line is, as far as I can recall, it’s the first attempt by a mainstream publisher to launch an entire line of new characters since the go-go 90 ’s.  As any retailer who was around back then knows, it's exponentially harder to successfully launch multiple new characters in multiple new titles all at once.  Case in point, DC’s Bloodlines line which ever so briefly gave us such worthies as Blood Pack, Razorsharp, and the Psyba-Rats, Anima, Loose Cannon, Argus, and Gunfire.

DC co-publisher Jim Lee has called New Age a “most aggressive push towards new concepts” but I didn’t find that many in the comics I read.  The Silencer is another super assassin, Sideways another teen hero, Damage a Hulk-like monster (a legacy name previously held by a 90’s short-lived teen hero) and The Curse of Brimstone another supernatural sort-of hero.  Which isn’t a commentary on the quality of any of those comics, it’s entirely possible those are exactly the concepts readers want right now.  But they hardly qualify as “new.”

Even with two issues of it out, I haven’t made up my mind as to what I think about The Immortal Men, but must admit that along with engaging characters and an intriguing premise it’s like nothing else being published by DC. New Challengers is a pretty grim take on The Challenges of the Unknown and the concept of being “on borrowed time."   But it’s hard to find fault with any comic done by Scott Snyder, Andy Kubert, and Klaus Janson.  And while there’s nothing remotely new about The Terrifics, that's ok because it’s everything a good superhero team book should be. Jeff Lemire and Ivan Reis are doing absolutely incredible work here.

The New Age title that I've been looking forward to reading most, The Unexpected, is only coming out this week. Borrowing the title of an old DC anthology series, it puts together a truly eclectic-looking bunch of not-quite-superheroes with names like Neon the Unknown, Firebrand, Nemesis and...Viking Judge.  Frankly, that would have been enough to get my attention, but then I learned its premise, which as writer Steve Orlando explains, “These are the people who stop these massive would-be crossover event books before they even happen and we don't even know it.”   Which is a cause that I can really get behind.

As I predicted, only because it was so utterly predictable, I liked Man of Steel #1 a lot.  Brian Michael Bendis fully demonstrates his ability to find fresh takes on both Superman and all of the overused conventions and tropes connected to him.  The only disappointing thing about the issue was Bendis’ first new Superman villain, Rogol Zaar.

While it’s hard creating new superheroes, it’s probably a lot harder to come up with new memorable villains.   Especially when you intentionally try to come up with a major villain for iconic characters like Superman or Batman, one that will be able to menace the hero for years to come.  Sure, every once in a while they’ll come up with a Bane, but it’s a lot more likely that you’ll get a major disappointment that will quickly disappear without a trace, like Hush.

What’s particularly disappointing about Rogol Zaar* is at Marvel, Bendis demonstrated a talent for creating memorable, absolutely terrifying villains.  Yet the first one he creates at DC seems to be just another big ugly alien   I like his motive for hating Kryptonians, (and the last twenty years or so of Superman comics have shown there are plenty of legitimate reasons for someone to hate Kryptonians).  And I understand he's supposed to have some kind of tragic backstory, but so far...he just seems like another big ugly alien. 

Finally, I saw Deadpool 2 the other day and liked it just fine. I knew the movie featured the first openly queer couple to appear in a Marvel movie, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna).  But what I didn’t know was it also stars young plus-sized actor Julian Dennison as the mutant Firefight, who complains on screen about the notable lack of overweight superheroes.  Way to Represent Big Guys, Julian.

*First, there's that name. Rogol Zaar sounds like something that came out of an Internet Random Alien Name Generator.  Even calling him Black Zero, the name of the first guy to blow up Krypton in Superman Vol. 1 #205 back in 1968, would have been better.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.