28th Dec2011

2011 In Review: #New52 Pick-Up

by Will


So, I’m usually not a fan of year-end, best of posts, but I feel that we’ve experienced enough of the DC Comics’ New 52 that it’s time to revisit it. As the biggest comic event of the year, you may remember I had some preliminary thoughts on the whole venture. Around that time, the guys over at the PowetCast were nice enough to have me on their show to discuss the whole thing. Now that we’re four months in, I’ve got to say that I’m not really impressed. While DC has gotten more press than they have in years, there really aren’t a lot of new ideas here. While a few of the new approaches are interesting, I haven’t read anything that warranted a reboot. Also, I don’t feel like the right questions are being asked by editorial. They seem to be asking, “How are we going to reintroduce Steel?” Instead of asking “Is there even a need/place for Steel in the new universe?” In short, it’s more of the same, on a compressed rollout schedule. As I did before the launch, I thought I’d revisit the launch books and give updated thoughts.

1. Justice League – Sure, I like it so far, but I know that it’s only a matter of time before the team is filled with the members of the sure-to be canceled Justice League International. I love the team of Johns and Lee, but we’re about a year away from it being the team of Milligan and Kubert. That’s not a flagship-worthy creative team to me.

2. Justice League International – This book is more painful than Batman and the Outsiders. I considered it to be the Booster Gold fill-in book, but it’s not the same Booster. I’m also buying it because Batman’s on the team, but I think I’m done after the first arc is done. As an aside, I really thought it would feature the pre-Flashpoint Booster as he deals with his new surroundings. After all, he was outside the timestream as Flashpoint occurred, and actually popped up in that universe. I’ve read enough comics to know he should be all kinds of fucked up from that. I don’t feel like getting to know a new Booster, even if he turns out to be just like the old one. The old one didn’t need replacing.

3. Teen Titans – Done with #3. I just can’t bring myself to care. DC can’t seem to decide if this is the first incarnation of the Titans. I don’t like the characterization of Tim Drake, and I don’t like the new characters. Done.

4. Suicide Squad – I’m quite enjoying this. While I’m not keen on New Harley, I like that it uses characters that can afford to have liberties taken with them. Had I stuck with Secret Six I probably wouldn’t feel that way, but so far I’m pleased.

5. Action Comics – I think I’m done with #4. Never been a Morrison fanboy, and the pacing is rough. I was trying to be a trooper, but we’re getting 2 months of fill-ins before the initial story arc concludes. Look, I was a proponent of the fill-in model, but I expect you to get out the FIRST ARC before employing it. Plus, I had to be honest and ask myself “Am I a Superman guy?” Like, will I honestly be reading the book in a year? Unlike Batman, I’m not gonna just buy Superman books out of habit. If it’s bad now, it’s only going to get worse. Done. Steel introduction this early on? Double done.

6. Superman – I actually find this one interesting, yet it’s so damn verbose. Too many damn words. I swear Claremont is ghostwriting this thing. While I know there’s a 5 year gap between the events of Action and those here, this does not feel like the same Superman, and that’s a problem. The one in Action doesn’t even feel like an inexperienced version of this guy. Im hanging on, but will probably drop after the first arc.

7. Superboy – Done with #2. Like with Teen Titans, I just don’t care. This isn’t my Kon-El, and I don’t care enough to get to know him. The Caitlin Fairchild angle almost kept me on, but that just forced it into another unnecessary direction – Gen13 rehash. I’m not saying that’s where it’s definitely going, but I read the whole “genetically-engineered teen turns against clandestine maker” story back in ’94, and it was called Gen13. Pass.

8. Supergirl – never picked it up. This is, what, her fourth incarnation since COIE? Not interested.

9. Batman – look, I like Snyder, but I don’t get everyone raving over Capullo. All of his white males look the same – the only difference is height. I’ve read online interviews where he has said the similarities between Bruce and the new politician guy are deliberate, but that doesn’t explain why they look like the same characters he drew in Haunt. He makes Tony Daniel look talented.

10. Detective Comics – Speaking of Daniel, he doesn’t suck nearly as much as he used to. I honestly enjoyed his opening arc, even if it felt like he was playing with Morrisonian concepts that he didn’t fully understand. He’s showing growth, and that’s admirable.

11. Batman: The Dark Knight – Why am I buying this book? It isn’t very good. This is what happens when you promote an artist to writer just to keep him from jumping ship to Marvel. Every iconic character has a superfluous book, and this is Batman’s. This is the Legends of the Dark Knight/Batman Chronicles/Batman Confidential of the New 52. It’s for those people who’ll buy anything with Batman in it, though it really doesn’t move the needle in terms of adding value to the character. I like Finch’s art, but I see myself dropping this soon. In my 52 Thoughts post, I said that Paul Cornell or Peter Tomasi would be on it in a year. Well, I was close, as Paul Jenkins is already on as co-writer.

12. Batgirl – I’m pretty much done after the first arc. I thought she was better as Oracle, and what I’ve read hasn’t made me feel like Barbara Gordon-as-Batgirl is even needed. Why not keep Cassie or Steph? The Bat timeline is the most confusing of the relaunch, since we don’t know which events still happened. That said, I just haven’t enjoyed this. Call me when she’s paralyzed again.

13. Batwoman – This book is the comic equivalent of a beautiful woman with no personality. I like looking at it, but the story has done absolutely nothing for me. Batwoman has been around for about 5 years now, and we know so little about her. This isn’t done in a deliberate way, either, like with old school Wolverine. Why is she necessary? Why is she wearing the mantle of The Bat? I’ve said it before, but I’d appreciate her more as an original character called the Asskicktress than as Batwoman, as we still haven’t been given a good reason as to why she chose to be BATwoman. She’s not likable. The way DC pushes her sexuality, she comes off as a “diversity hire”, but I’ll admit that the only thing I do find interesting is her relationship with Maggie Sawyer. I’m a sucker for supporting cast members. Still hanging on…for now.

14. Catwoman – Man, did everyone lose their shit over the sex in #1! I admit it caught me off guard, but other books have shown that New 52 Bruce Wayne does fuck. My major concern is that I hope he used a bat condom! Just like with Action, am I gonna be reading Catwoman a year from now? Probably not, but I’ll finish the first arc. Like in the past, I’ll come back when they rope her into the first mega Bat crossover.

15. Red Hood and the Outlaws – It started out as everyone hating Whorefire, but that seems to have subsided. I dislike this book for another reason entirely: it’s just not what I signed on for. I expected Red Hood and Red Arrow to be anti heroes, doing their own thing. I did not expect mystical mumbo jumbo, and I hate that shit. I don’t care about mystical cities and revenge and whatnot. Seriously close to dropping this.

16. Batwing – My God this is a good book! Who knew? I was ready to write it off as another “diversity hire” book. After all, out of all the Batman Inc folks, why did HE get a series? That said, I’m loving it. Sure, Winick worked an AIDS reference in by #4, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

17. Nightwing – I feel like I’ve read this before. Sure, the Haley’s angle is new, but it reads just like the last Nightwing series, when he moved to NYC. All Nightwing series begin with him doubting himself and finding his confidence. He usually finds it just in time for the next reboot/relaunch. Finishing the arc, but not impressed.

18. Batman and Robin – After Morrison left, this felt like an unnecessary flagship – like when Whedon left Astonishing X-Men. That said, I’m loving this new direction. This is where you get the emotional beats of Bruce getting to know the son he never knew he had. Some may find it unnecessary, but these are the interactons I’ve wanted to see since Batman R.I.P.

19. Birds of Prey – Dropped it after #1. Just like with Booster and the Titans, I have no desire to get to know this new team. Don’t need a new Dinah. Don’t care to know Starling. I know some of my online friends love it, but it’s just not worth the $3 to me.

20. Green Lantern – I’ve said this in other places, but #1 felt more like a season premiere rather than a series premiere. What I mean by that is that it was clear that events had occurred prior to the issue – important events. While it was accessible, I couldn’t help but feel I was missing something. Considering I’d read the Sinestro Corps War, as well as Blackest Night, that’s not a good feeling. I am, however, enjoying the focus on Sinestro. I’ve never truly seen him as a villain, so I’m enjoying this spotlight on him. That said, I’m probably gone after this arc. GL is written in an almost Marvel way, where one event leads into the next, so jumping off may not be as clean a break as I’m hoping.

21. Aquaman – Really loving it. I’ll chalk it up to Johns’s writing, but I’m enjoying it so far. I can see myself dropping it eventually, but no time soon.

22. Wonder Woman – Dropped with #1. Chiang’s art is gorgeous, but I don’t know what the fuck is going on. Mythology is not my bag, as I learned most of it from Hercules and Xena. I just couldn’t follow it. I know there are folks out there who eat that stuff up, and more power to ’em. Just not for me.

23. Flash – I’m actually enjoying this arc. I like Manuapul’s art, and the story is pretty engaging. That said, I still don’t really care about Barry Allen. This is even after Rebirth and Flashpoint. Just don’t care. So, I can see myself dropping this after the first arc.

24. Blue Beetle – Dropped with #1. Not in the mood for a new introduction, as it feels like we JUST met Jaime. Also, I get that he’s a Latin character, but the book is too in your face with the Spanish. It’s off-putting in a way. I hope he opens a lot of doors for minority characters, but he’s not for me.

25. Fury of Firestorm – My God this was a piece of shit. Dropped with #1. It’s such a cliched mess. I expected the comic adaptation of City Guys, but I expected better dialogue. This needed to happen, though, just to show that Gail can and does write shit every now and then. I know that’s a controversial notion to some, but she’s human, so she’s capable of error. She sucked on Gen13, she sucked on Wonder Woman, she sucked on The Atom, and she sucked on this. Not everything she writes turns to gold. This was a horrible, horrible book. DC seems to think Firestorm deserves to be represented in some fashion, but they just can’t wrap their brains around the proper way to do it.

26. Mr Terrific – Dropped with #3. It seemed like most people were reading because they heard Karen Starr was in it. Then, they lost their shit when she turned out to be his fuck buddy rather than Power Girl. While I don’t claim to know a ton about Mr Terrific, this ain’t the guy I remember. They want him to be too many things. He’s black Tony Stark, with a hint of Reed Richards. He’s so smart, yet such a disaster. He’s about to lose his company, he travels to microdimensions, and he’s visited by his supposedly dead son from the future. Plus, the pacing is just all wrong. He proceeds to tell his origin as post-coital pillow talk. It comes off like, “Thanks for the pussy. So, let me tell you about my dead wife.” I just don’t care anymore. I think folks are now reading it just hoping for clues as to where the new JSA will come from. Since DC has pretty much said that this is where you’ll find clues, I don’t expect the book to go anywhere anytime soon. I just won’t be along for the ride.

27. Static Shock – Dropped with #3. I really wanted to support this book. Fun character, Scott McDaniel art. That said, like Green Lantern, it felt like too much had occurred prior to the series. I don’t even know where such events could have occurred, as Static’s appearances were irregular pre New 52. It just didn’t feel accessible. Started to feel like a chore.

28. Frankenstein – Intriguing ideas, but its tone didn’t seem to fit everything else going on in the New 52. I enjoyed the character in Seven Soldiers but that series worked because it was so outside the DCU norm. I might like this as a Vertigo book, but it felt like Hellboy. If I wanted to read a Hellboy clone, I’d just read Atomic Robo. Dropped with #1.

29. Justice League Dark – Interesting, but it’s really just Shadowpact borrowing on the clout of the Justice League brand. I don’t like magical bullshit, so this was dropped with #1.

30. Blackhawks – a few yrs ago, when they knew they were losing the G.I. Joe license, Devils Due went after the license for The Corps. You know The Corps – they’re the G.I.Joe knockoffs that your grandma always gets you ’cause she doesn’t know any better. Instead of The Baroness, there’s The Contessa. You get the picture. Anyway, they only got out a #0 before they apparently forgot they had the license. Why do I bring this up? It’s because this feels like that series. It’s DC’s Chinese knockoff Joe team. I don’t think the DCU needs a Joe team. After all, Checkmate seems to still be in existence. Where does this group fit into things? Tonally, there’s just no place for this team, and I don’t feel like getting to know them.

And The Rest: OMAC, Captain Atom, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, Red Lanterns, Hawk & Dove, LOSH, Legion Lost, Deathstroke, Grifter, Voodoo, Stormwatch, All-Star Western, Men at War, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Demon Knights, Resurrection Man, I, Vampire, Green Arrow, DC Universe Presents, Savage Hawkman – skipped, no interest

DC also decided to slip a few miniseries out amongst the 52 ongoings. Lately, I have a “no mini” policy, as they rarely add any value to a franchise. If it turns out to be important, I can always get the trade. So, I skipped Penguin: Pain & Prejudice because, well, it’s a book about Penguin! I also skipped The Shade because, while the Starman Omnibus series taught me that James Robinson is an incredible writer, with an incredible take on The Shade, it simultaneously taught me that I have no desire to read those characters outside of collected editions. So, I’ll skip it for now. There’s some scuttlebutt that sales are low and the series may not reach completion, but that’s just a risk I’m willing to take. I gave Huntress a chance, but I’m done with #2. People online are raving over this thing, and I don’t have a clue as to why. Sure, Marcus To’s art is beautiful, but the glacial pacing would shame even Marvel editors. It’s going nowhere fast, and I’d just rather save the money.

So, it seems like I just had a lot of bile to spew, but there are some bright spots: Aquaman, most of the Bat books, Justice League, and others. The bottom line, however, was that these results could’ve been achieved from a creator shuffle and NOT a full-scale revamp. It was GREAT PR, but that’s only going to last so long. At this point, the sales have pretty much settled down, with Marvel again taking the lead market share. This tactic may have attracted new fans, but at the cost of old school fans. I’ll admit that I don’t like change. I’m a curmudgeon like that, but I’ll still give things a chance. I’ll give credit where credit is due, so I feel there are some bright spots out there for DC. As a whole, however, I don’t think there’s enough evidence to call this a rousing, long-term success. What I can say is that DC closed out 2011 with a highest profile than they’ve had since Superman died. At this rate, they’ll be the popular girl again by 2032.