REVIEW: DC Universe Presents #0

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Or – “Their Stories Continue, Even If Their Books Tanked…”

Many years ago, I came to the sad conclusion that my favorite titles won’t ever be big sellers with the general public.  Because of that sad paradigm, it came to be that I was reading and enjoying roughly 60% of the cancelled product of the New 52 thus far.  Although I didn’t read much beyond the first issue of Blackhawks, I appreciated their pedigree, and I have to say that it’s good to see O.M.A.C., Mister Terrific and Deadman again.  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

Oh, and Hawk & Dove are also in this issue.

DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS #0
Writer: Keith Giffen & Dan Didio/James Robinson/Rob Liefeld/Tony Bedard
Artist: Keith Giffen/Tom Derenick/Marat Mychaels/Carlos Rodriguez/Scott McDaniel
Inker: Scott Koblish/Bit
Colorist: Hi-Fi/Mike Atiyeh/Matt Yackey/Guy Major
Letterer: Travis Lanham/Dave Sharpe/Dezi Sienty/Carlos M. Mangual
Editor: Harvey Richards/Joey Cavalieri/Rachel Gluckstern/Chris Conroy
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $5.99

Previously, in DC Universe Presents:  While I am occasionally loquacious, and capable of some high-velocity verbosity, even I can’t give you the “Previously’s” for five separate series and remain fully coherent, so here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:  O.M.A.C. was wacky 70’s Kirby.  Hawk & Dove was quirky 60’s Ditko.  Deadman was Silver Age Neal Adams awesome.  The Blackhawks were Golden Age royalty.  Mister Terrific was once murdered by The Flash.  And now you know…  because knowing is approximately 50% of any given conflict.

KEITH GIFFEN IS AWESOME ON MANY LEVELS.

But, do you want to know how awesome he is?  All the issues of O.M.A.C. had titles to fit the characters acronymic name, and this issue’s O.M.A.C. chapter is titled “Origins Matter After Cancellation.”  Heh.  We get a little bit of backstory on Brother Eye (his slightly Batmanny Infinite Crisis origin is still at least partly valid), his conflict with Maxwell Lord and the reasons why hapless Kevin Kho was chosen to host the O.M.A.C. virus, and the ten-page story manages to give us a nice little vignette explaining what happened before last year’s #1 issue.  James Robinson’s origin of Mr. Terrific is a little more problematic, giving us the T-Man’s first trip into the device that would eventually eject him from the Main DCU Earth, giving him glimpses of strange worlds and possible futures, including the revelation that his girlfriend is actually Power Girl.  The main issue with the story is that this takes place before issue #1, but gives him knowledge that SHOULD have altered his story in the eight already-published issues of his book.

As for Rob Liefeld’s origin of Hawk & Dove, it’s…  Umm…  It…

Uh…

You remember the old Order/Chaos war in the mid-80s DC Comics?  Rob kept that part, but decided that the avatars of order and chaos are gods literally named War and Peace, who…  Y’know what?  Skip it.  Rob just cobbled together 30 years of someone else’s stories with awful art and some REALLY bone-headed naming conventions.  Moving on…

HEY, THE NINETIES ARE BACK!

So, I didn’t really read Blackhawks after the New 52 #1s, so I don’t know if it was all like this, but the origin of the team (and the debut of a new villain called Mother Machine) reminds me of the excesses of comics in the 90s, filled with enormous guns, macho dialogue, silly moments and lots of teeth-grinding fighty-fighty.  As cliche as it might have been, though, it was better than the Hawk & Dove story.  I did enjoy the origin of Deadman, taking as it did the old continuity (the hook-handed assassin who killed Boston Brand) and turning it on its head, as Rama Kushna immediately throws the wayward spirit of Boston into the body of the man who killed him.  Things progress in ways that were a little bit surprising, and explained a bit more about why Deadman was where he was at the beginning of DC Universe Presents last year.  With art by Scott McDaniel, it’s a cute little tale, but one that feels particularly constrained by its ten-page length.  Much like Sword of Sorcery #0, not all the creative teams were equally successful in such short bursts, but at least these characters had some extant New 52 backstory to lean on, even if that backstory didn’t always support the stories being told in this volume.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  A LOT OF VARIABLES IN PLAY, HERE…

This type of book is always difficult to review, simply because there are five different creative teams, featuring five different casts with five wildly different tones, one of which features the work of Rob Liefeld and Marat Mychaels.  For our five tales, my individual assessments go like this:

O.M.A.C.:

Rating: ★★★½☆

MISTER TERRIFIC:

Rating: ★★½☆☆

HAWK & DOVE:

Rating: ½☆☆☆☆

BLACKHAWKS:

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

DEADMAN:

Rating: ★★★☆☆

All and all, this issue does provide interesting background for its characters, which could serve as a jumping on point…

…if any of them still actually had a book. (Some have even torpedoed multiple titles, as O.M.A.C. transitioned into JLI, which was then likewise cancelled, while the Blackhawk team appeared in Voodoo, also cancelled with #12.)  Mister Terrific is still part of the sprawling cast of Earth-2, but at double the price of a regular issue and featuring almost no one that readers can come back and read next month, DC Universe Presents #0 is somewhat of a hard-sell, earning a composite score of 2.5 out of 5 stars overall.  There’s at least enough good going on that I can recommend it to fans of these characters or those with some extra pocket-money, but you have been warned:  Skip the Hawk & Dove.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

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