Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Ben Caldwell
Inker: Mark Morales
Colorist: Jeremy Lawson
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Prez Rickard created by Joe Simon and Jerry Grandenetti
Perhaps the most unusual series to emerge out of the DC You initiative, Prez bears little resemblance to the original Prez Rickard from 1973. Set in the year 2036, the comic isn't a realistic futurist projection but a harsh satire about the shallowness of our Web 2.0 culture. Media saturation has led to a further loss of empathy and the intensifying of the craving for loud spectacle. Citizens are disengaged while they let mega corporations invade their privacy and corrupt the political process. It's a pretty bleak view of current technological trends. As one pundit puts it "This country just gets stupider." But it's what allows for a teenage girl called Beth Ross to fail her way up to the White House. I'm curious to see whether or not the story will transcend such cynicism.
Prez spends more time molding the textures of its fictional world than with its protagonist. A senator proposes replacing food stamps with "taco drones" to deliver unhealthy corporate fast food to the poor and monitor them at the same time. One presidential candidate agrees to getting paddled in the rear during a popular vodcast in a desperate bid to win over Ohio voters, another appears on a game show where contestants perform a series of increasingly dangerous stunts in order to win a billion dollars. While some of this can seem hamfisted, Mark Russell's one liners quickly convey how entertainment values erode substantive debate. To wit, that horrific game show is reduced by its guest to a glib sentiment "proof that anyone can succeed in America if they just try hard enough!"
As little as we get to see Beth do anything proactive, Ben Caldwell still manages to portray her as a sympathetic character. His cartooning style which blends Disney with a dash of manga imbues Beth with a wide-eyed, naïf vulnerability. It helps that her defining character trait is a capacity for self-sacrifice. But Caldwell's delicate linework also succeeds in capturing the absurdity demanded of the story and give it an edgy fairy tale quality.
Writer: Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Emanuela Lupacchino, Amanda Conner, Paul Mounts
Inker: Ray McCarthy
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Starfire/Koriand'r created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez
I don't know if the post-Convergence DC Universe is meant to be a soft reboot or if it's still even a universe at this point, but I was surprised that this series completely ignores Starfire's previous New 52 incarnation. Then again, given the significant negative attention that particular version garnered, it's understandable why the publisher decided to drastically change course. So Amanda Connor et al. had to clear a very low bar. For all intents, this Starfire has gone back to the beginning as a veritable newcomer trying to adjust to life on Earth.
This Starfire is based mostly on the popular animated Teen Titans series with a bit of the original Marv Wolfman/George Pérez comic character shining through. A lot of the humor is centered around misunderstandings arising from Starfire's unfamiliarity with Earth customs and a tendency to take English language idioms a little too literally. It's a well worn trope, but at least it's not a hot mess. Starfire might be naive, but she's no ditz. When a fight breaks out between two men vying for her attention, she knocks some sense into them with one well aimed (but nonlethal) starbolt.
This is a new series which goes out of its way to be welcoming to new readers. I still miss Connor's comic touch as an artist, even though Emanuela Lupacchino draws a Starfire who's both sweet and unselfconsciously seductive. The issue begins with a two page recap of her alien origins, then proceeds to situate her in a new setting filled with new supporting characters. It's actually a little weird how willing they are to help her. Inker Ray McCarthy and the colors of Hi-Fi give everything a very bright and glossy finish. In fact, the comic looks and feels less like a superhero adventure and more like a cute magical girl comedy. For a DC mainstream title, that's a bold new direction.