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'Second Wave' of DC Comics: Four new titles launch Wednesday

Rich ClabaughThe Christian Science Monitor

Last September DC Comics relaunched their entire line of superhero comics with 52 new books all renumbered/numbered to begin again at #1. This bold move received a ton of media coverage and high praise as they rolled back years of continuity to the new status quo – a world in which all their best-loved comic book heroes have now only been around for five years. This makes all the characters younger, with some still learning the do’s and don’t’s of superheroing.

Now, with the dust just barely settled on this new landscape, DC is releasing a "Second Wave" of four new comics starting today.

The four "Second Wave" comics released today include:

Dial H in which writer China Mieville and artist Mateus Santolouco revamp the old series "Dial H for Hero." "Dial H for Hero" featured a mysterious dial (like an old telephone dial) that allowed an ordinary person to achieve superpower status for a short time, simply by dialing the letters H-E-R-O. But each time it was used, the magic dial transformed its user into a superhero with a different name, costume, and powers. This revamp places the magic dial in an old phone booth in an abandoned ally. When loser Nelse Jent tries to use the phone to call the police to help his friend, he is transformed into his first "hero." There are two transformations in this first issue and both are bizarre characters that reflect the darker tone of the comic. The art is moody, giving the setting – a town named Littleville – a bleak rundown appearance. It is a great setup with an interesting mystery – "What is that phone booth and where did it come from?" – peopled by dark, creepy characters including "Boy Chimney" and "Captain Lachrymose." So for fans who like their superheroes quirky, "Dial H"!

GI Combat expands DC's line of war comics. It also contains revamps of old series with the first story "The War That Time Forgot" written by J.T. Krul and painted art by Ariel Olivetti. The concept is simple: A US Special Forces unit is sent into an area in North Korea that has been totally blacked out. Inside they find themselves transported into a land full of dinosaurs. "Have they been sent back in time?" "How will they escape?" are just two of the questions this story asks. The fairly simple plot – soldiers versus dinosaurs – is brought to life by some amazing artwork by Olivetti. The second story is a new version of the "Unknown Soldier" by writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with art by Dan Panosian. When a man‘s family is killed by terrorists, he goes on to become a skilled assassin to kill any and all terrorists. In the process his face is destroyed and he wears bandages to hide his disfigurement. I didn’t find too much originality in this lead-off story. But it’s a safe bet that with Palmiotti and Gray, who’ve been doing such a great job writing the western genre with DC’s ‘"All Star Western," that we’ll soon find it a compelling read.

The last two books are the cream of the crop as DC reintroduces and reinvents its alternate earth concept in the new titles Earth 2 and World's Finest. In "Earth 2" written by James Robinson and illustrated by Nicola Scott, we are quickly introduced to an Earth ravaged by years of war. All superheroes are either dead or missing. We see the world years after the war, as familiar characters beloved by longtime comic book fans – Alan Scott, Al Pratt, and Jay Garrick – are introduced. Will they become the superheroes we once knew? I can’t wait for the issues to come as we will see Earth find new heroes to defend it.

"World’s Finest" by writer Paul Levitz and artists George Perez and Kevin Maguire follows the adventures the "Earth 2" version of Supergirl and a female Robin (daughter of the "Earth 2" version of Bruce Wayne) as they are transported from their Earth to the main DC Comic Earth. (I know, it can get confusing.) We first see them a few years after they arrived as they adopt new superhero identities while they search for a way home. It looks like we’ll learn, through flashbacks, what adventures they had leading up to the present. Again, this is a great start to catch the reader’s interest. Levitz gives us two real characters that you root for, along with some great banter. George Perez is a comic book legend and he still can deliver some amazing art with clear action scenes and his amazingly detailed backgrounds. I hope these two creators are in it for the long haul because this team of creators is surely "World’s Finest."

And the timing of the launch couldn't be more ideal. This Saturday, May 5, is Free Comic Book Day, an annual celebration that lets you go to your local comic book shop and get free books, some especially created for the event. While most tend to be a sampling, this year’s new offerings from DC Comics promise to turn Free Comic Book Day into a genuine event. Enjoy!

Rich Clabaugh is a Christian Science Monitor staff artist.