Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The New 52, One Year Later...

One year ago this month, DC Comics aimed to take the comics world by storm with their complete reboot of the DC Universe. Although the basic elements of most characters remained the same, many of the details changed. First and foremost, the timeline was compacted, meaning that instead of Superman being a long established hero, in the "New 52" continuity, he and most other heroes have only been active for a maximum of five years.

I've been a big DC comics fan for a long time, and started seriously collecting comics in the late 90s. Over the years comics have changed both in terms of art and writing. DC comics has rebooted their continuity lightly a few times in the past, but not since 1985's "Crisis On Infinite Earths" have they so completely altered the continuity of their universe.

I knew I wasn't going to buy all 52 of their new titles, but I bought as many numbers one's as I thought I might enjoy, and then eliminated comics from my starting line-up over the next few months.

Last year, around that time, I gave a rundown of the different comics I was trying out, and why I liked or disliked what I was reading. You can read my entire series of "DC's New 52" posts at the links below:

Post 1
Post 2
Post 3
Post 4
Post 5
Post 6
Post 7

Now, one year later, I'm looking back at my comic reading habits since then, going over briefly which comics I read this last year, and why I'm either still reading them or not. Afterward, I'll give my overall thoughts on what DC Comics has done this year.


His new origin was very much in keeping with his original: The product of a secret project attempting to clone Superman.

Why I dropped it:
Without the guidance and grounding provided by Ma and Pa Kent, Superboy was just another angry, brooding "hero". Now, I like angry brooding heroes, but I also like character. And as this book began to crossover with other books, the story became confusing and vague. Attention to developing Superboy as a character was sacrificed and I simply lost interest, figuring I could get enough of him in Teen Titans.

Teen Titans

In the New 52, the Teen Titans are all brand spanking new crimefighters. And they're being hunted down by the government! A great premise and a pretty good character line-up. (Although with some obvious "demographic boxes" being checked by new third-tier characters.)

Why I dropped it:
Again, this choice was about character. I had already dropped the previous version of this title a year or so after Geoff Johns stopped writing it. It's hard to follow Johns' great, character-driven writing with material that is more about "big fights" instead. Teen Titans also suffered when it became part of the same confusing crossover story as Superboy and one or two other books. Great art in this book, but it wasn't enough for me.


Barry Alan is back and a bachelor. The Flash is a new hero who hasn't won over his hometown yet. In fact, he gets himself into trouble with the public pretty early on.

Why I dropped it:
It took awhile for me to drop this book. The Flash may be my second favorite character. But the art style never quite won me over, and Barry's personality seemed lost in the cookie cutter mold of "new insecure hero trying to make his way in the world" that so many of the New 52 books have become. When a story came along that represented the speed force as a weird, Dr. Seuss-looking dimension of floating rocks in space, I was done.


Supergirl has just arrived on earth. She doesn't speak English and she is very aggressive and defensive. And well she should be, since some crazy corporate big-baddie wants to harvest her DNA (or something like that).

Why I dropped it:
Same old-tune. Lots of action, not enough character. I felt like they offered some token bits of character development, but they seemed tacked on, rather than a driving force of the story. So much missed potential with this character concept.

Action Comics

This is the ground floor for getting to know the new Superman, as the first arc tells the story of his first five years fighting crime.

Why I dropped it:
Plain and simple. I don't like this Superman. You can argue up and down what he has in common with Superman as he was first created in the late '30s, but that doesn't make me like him any more.

Ma and Pa Kent are dead, removing their potential to give him loving support and mature emotional grounding. Superman seems angry all the time, and so does Clark, who sometimes comes across as a young college student who just discovered a cause and the past-time of protesting.

My favorite Superman is the one who kicks butt when he has to, but until then is inspiring, polite and SMILES now and then!

Detective Comics

Dark and brooding, this book features the solo adventures of the Dark Knight.

Why I've kept it:
This book is my refuge from the way this character is being mishandled elsewhere. I don't like the surrogate family that has developed around Batman. He effectively has three sons and almost a daughter, too, in his other books. He's also been talking about "putting the deah of his parents behind him" and "celebrating their wedding anniversary instead of their death". Who the crap is this guy? It's like a supervillain switched the souls of Batman and Superman in the New 52!

The story has been interesting, although the more recent "sci-fi" story veered away from the gritty "street level" stuff I like Batman for best. (Unless he's with the Justice League.) So we'll see how much longer I hang on to this one.


Aquaman is the least respected superhero, and he knows it. But that doesn't stop him from kicking butt and taking names as he goes on a mission to deal with the ghosts of his past.

Why I've kept it:
Easy. Geoff Johns. Great supporting cast. Intriguing concepts and characters. Great art. This book is for Aquaman fans, those that always WANTED to like Aquaman but couldn't, and those who think Aquaman is lame. Buy this book!

Justice League

Like Action Comics, the first story arc of this book recaps the first few years of the Justice League, making use of the "Big Seven", but replacing Martian Manhunter with Cyborg. (A choice I'm surprised at how much I like!)

Why I've kept it:
Geoff Johns again. That and the Big Seven (Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Cyborg). Love the bang for your buck in terms of big name characters, and Johns knows these characters so well that he makes it a blast to see them play off each other.

Blue Beetle

A powerful alien parasitic suit falls into the hands of Jaime, a teenage boy who tries his best to use his newfound powers to do good, even though the alien suit seems designed to do the evil deeds of a dangerous alien race.

Why I've kept it:
This book got off to a bumpy start for me in some ways, given that a small but significant fraction of the dialogue is in Spanish... and I don't know Spanish. But this seems to have been toned down a little bit and the rest of the book makes up for it anyway.

Sure, you can call the basic premise a rip-off of Spider-man in some ways. The main character's family and friends are constantly put in danger because of his suit. But as often as the Blue Beetle's enemies are the problem, the suit itself callously treats Jaime's friends as enemies, too. The book also has a more sci-fi space theme than Spider-man, and as usual, this DC counterpart is much more powerful than its analog in the Marvel universe.

Character driven stories and cool sci-fi concepts make this one worth coming back to every month.

Green Lantern

7200 Green Lanterns patrol the universe, promoting peace, order and justice. This comic focuses on Hal Jordan, earth's most well-known Green Lantern.

Why I've kept it:
Even if Green Lantern weren't my favorite superhero, I'd still be buying this book just to get another dose of Geoff Johns. 'Nuff said.

Green Lantern Corps

This Green lantern book zooms out a bit and gives us a look at what's going on with the Green Lantern Corps as a whole, though it tends to anchor stories with earth Green Lanterns Guy Gardner and John Stewart.

Why I've kept it:
One of my favorite things about the Green Lantern Corps has always been the pseudo-military vibe to it. And when the Corps was brought back to the DCU a few years ago, it was clear DC saw the value in this idea, too. Despite the massive scale of outer space in this book, the stories have that gritty, war and combat feel you'd expect from a military story. Green Lanterns bleed and die in this book, as they go up against the biggest and baddest threats in the universe. And amidst all the GL awesomeness, there's still room for developing characters that I've known for years.

Green Lantern New Guardians

Earth Green Lantern Kyle Rayner discovers he has a unique connection to all the various Corps.

Why I've kept it:
Honestly, I'm not sure why I've stuck with this one. The writing is good but forgettable, and one recent story just rubbed me the wrong way, philosophically. But I'm a sucker for a Green Lantern book, and this one isn't a bad one.

Demon Knights

In the Dark Ages, a handful of supernaturally gifted individuals join forces against an evil sorceress.

Why I dropped it:
This started out looking like the cool, sword and sorcery comic I've long dreamed of someone making. But in the end I found the story and characters too forgettable to invest in.

My Thoughts On The New 52

To sum up, I should say that I don't think all the books I dropped are bad books, by any means. But my geek interests, and therefore my time and money, have diversified over the last 5 years. I no longer feel like spending the majority of my "fun money" on only comic books and movies. Video games and table top games are invading my time. So when I make time to read a comic book, I can't settle any more for a mediocre book, or even a very good book. My standard these days is "superb", and I even wonder how much longer the books I've kept will last by that standard.

As for the New 52 in general, I'm not terribly impressed. I'd love to go behind the scenes and see DC's sales figures now compared to a few years ago. I'd love to cut past the publicity hype and see what DC execs and editors REALLY think about the effectiveness of their strategy so far.

What could have been a great reboot to entice new readers may be succeeding in its sales goals for all I know. And good for DC if that works for them. But many of the changes have resulted in things that either don't interest me or just plain turn me off.

I'm especially let down by the choices made for Superman's character, and the elimination of DC's greatest legacy characters, The Justice Society. (Yes, I know they're bringing them back, but as young heroes like all the others instead of mature veterans, and with no World War 2 background. The two things that most set them apart!)

I've heard buzz and seen action taken that gives priority to inclusiveness of minorities and consistancy in creative teams. And I've got no problem with either of these things. But it seems that somehow an opportunity was lost to prioritize something better, like character, and re-establishing the definition of superhero. (DC STARTED the genre after all.)

Maybe they feel they have done both of those things. Maybe the truth is that I'm just not interested in the direction DC is going and the philosophy driving it. I've even considered the possibility that I may be heading into the twilight years of my comic book collecting. Or at least a shift toward select trade paperbacks again, as I tended toward when I first started collecting comics to begin with.

That thought doesn't make me as sad as I might have once thought, though. There are lots of great creative things going on elsewhere. And who knows? With my DC collecting dropping back, maybe I'll even try out more Marvel trade paperbacks now and then.

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