Considering the… *ahem* …recent events on 4thletter, now’s as good a time as any to talk about DC Comics and their New 52. Sales were in the toilet for most anything that didn’t have a bat or a glowing ring in it, so DC decided to shake things up and reboot. Only they said it wasn’t a reboot. Yet it was. I was intrigued by the balls of this move and bought every single #1, deciding to give every one of them at least a chance.
As time went on, I naturally started to drop titles almost every week. Some comics were awesome. Some were terrible. Some were okay enough at the start and picked up. Some were okay enough at the start and fell downward. Some were merely okay and not good enough for me to keep buying, as much as I didn’t hate them. Then some I really enjoyed got canceled or put with a creative team that I have no intention of following.
All 52 books have reached their #6, so with the honeymoon over (I know I’m one of a hundred bloggers who had to have used that term), here’s my look back at the reboot. We’ll go in alphabetical order, like the cool kids do.
Action Comics is something I’m staying with right now, but my interest is noticeably waning. The first couple issues blew the doors off the hinges, but everything since has been the usual Grant Morrison weirdness hypnotism. It’s like this joke wrestler Chris Jericho made about the Ultimate Warrior’s ridiculous interviews from the 80′s. “I’m not sure what that meant but it… sounded cool, so YAY!” I have enough faith in Morrison to keep me entertained and if anything, I’m just going to blame this on the recent inclusion of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Never cared for those guys.
All-Star Western is like a guilty pleasure of mine, but not in the usual way. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with reading Jonah Hex’s badass team-up adventures with the wimpy Dr. Arkham depicted through beautiful art by Moritat. It’s just that it’s $3.99 and it comes with a backup story involving another wild west hero that I promptly skip most of the time. The Hex stuff is so good that I’m willing to pay that extra buck regardless of whether I even glance at the last few pages of the floppy.
Animal Man is easily top three, if not the best of what DC has to offer. It’s the kind of thing that Lemire should always be proud of. If he continues to play his cards right, this run will sit next to Morrison’s Animal Man run as the iconic go-to read for the character instead of yet another follow-up to a classic run that doesn’t measure up. It accepts its ancestry, but goes in its own direction. It’s also an encyclopedia of nightmare material that continues to give me the jibblies. Like this thing.
There it goes again. The jibblies.
Aquaman has its claws in me as well. People criticize the comic for going too far into the idea that everyone thinks Aquaman is a joke. I think that helps it out a lot. It’s an interesting take on the Spider-Man relationship with the media. WE know he’s a hero and he’s capable, but the media will always be on his back. Only instead of calling him a menace and a criminal, they simply call him a weak link. Aquaman in the comic is dealing with what the concept of Aquaman has been dealing with in the real world for years. No matter what you do, it won’t be good enough. He can be super strong and deflect bullets with only his forehead, but he’s still that guy who talks to fish. This, contrasted with his wife’s lack of patience with humans as well as the strong opening arc, makes this another one of my favorites so far.
Batgirl is a comic I dropped by the first issue. I was already irked by the insistence on bringing back Barbara Gordon as Batgirl when there are already two superior Batgirls in existence. I also didn’t like having her come back from being crippled when it would have made sense to rewrite her history so it never happened in the first place. The rest of the comic didn’t do anything to make up for that and I turned tail.
Regular Batman is completely awesome. The art, the action, the story, the cast – everything is phenomenal in this. I hope Snyder remains on the long haul for this one because so far he’s leaving all the other bat-books in the dust.
Like Batman: The Dark Knight for instance. This comic is junk and comes off as an even weaker Jeph Loeb Batman story, based on tossing in as many needless villain cameos as possible. Did they ever explain why Two-Face with extra muscles would be called “One-Face” even if he still has two faces? That still bothers me. I still think it’s funny how the first couple issues are about an Arkham breakout when the first segment of Batman #1 has Batman deal with such a riot in mere pages.
While I’m not sure how far it can go, I’m really enjoying Batman and Robin. I feel that the relationship between Bruce and Damian is one of the more interesting concepts in recent DC. When you look at it, it’s a depiction of man vs. self. Bruce and Damian are ultimately the same man dealing with himself and he doesn’t like what he sees. Damian wants what a younger Bruce would have wanted in a father, but by this point, Bruce isn’t even sure what that is anymore. On another note, is it just me or do the main villains in Batman, Batman and Robin and Nightwing seem a little too similarly-designed? I doubt they’re all going to be linked together in some way, though it’s always possible.
Batwing is something I almost feel like dropping, but continue to go with. I admit that I’m not keen to actual African conflict, so I’m a little too ignorant to be offended by any of it. I enjoy the backstory we’re given and the supporting cast we have so far. Batwing feels like he belongs in the Bat Family, so there’s at least that. One of the things keeping me in the loop is the wonderful art. When the art changes in Batwing #9, we’ll see if everything continues to hold together.
Speaking of, that’s the problem I’m having with Batwoman. I mainly get it for the JHW3 art with the writing being secondary. I’ve seen one issue so far with a different artist and I’m not sure if I want to keep going. I’ll give it another shot, but it really lacks the oomph. It does have a chain-smoking skeleton in a suit, so that’s something.
Birds of Prey is something I feel bad for dropping. I didn’t hate it. It didn’t really bother me in any major way. It just seemed so mild in excitement. I really wanted to enjoy it more, especially since Starling appears to be such a fun character, but the story is just so boring that I couldn’t bring myself to keep with it.
Blackhawks is one of those comics where I read it and I can’t tell you what it’s even about. So that one’s dead to me.
Blue Beetle never had a chance. It’s a retread of a very recent series that seems to hit all the wrong notes. I dropped it early on and from everything I hear, I was right to do so. I haven’t heard a single positive thing about it and that’s a colossal shame.
Captain Atom was a major surprise. I’ve never enjoyed anything by J.T. Krul, but I figured I’d give everyone a fair shake and I’m glad I did. This comic’s protagonist is 50% Captain Atom from pre-Flashpoint and 50% Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen. It has its own unique place in the DCU with Atom being seen as an isolated figure who’s too powerful for his own good. He’s the Sentry of DC – the guy that even the Justice League is concerned about and doesn’t trust. #6 ended the first arc and it’s a cool read.
I gave Catwoman a shot, ignoring the in-your-face T&A and even powering past the Batman sex scene at the end of the first issue. The art is really great and there are bits that are genuinely entertaining, but then the second issue soured for me and when it ended with her best friend viciously killed, I decided that this wasn’t the series for me.
Deathstroke, on the other hand, is everything I wanted it to be. The story of a grizzled badass who is stepping up due to the way everyone sees him as getting old and weak is fantastic just because of how over-the-top it is. The whole thing is lovably crazy from start to finish and it makes up for how unlikable our main character is. Unfortunately, the series is going to be written and drawn by Rob Liefeld soon, so I have to drop it. That eats.
I’m not so sure about Demon Knights. It started off as one of the stronger entries in the New 52, but it wanes more and more after each issue. Maybe because it feels like it’s taking so long to get past this opening storyline with so much waiting around. Part of me feels like the whole thing took a huge hit when Vandal Savage turned on them so early on, since he’s the best part about the comic. He was both the most badass good guy and the funniest. There’s still promise in there and I’ll hold on for a little bit more, but I don’t know if it’ll reach its potential.
Detective Comics is pretty terrible. I tried giving it a second chance and it got even worse. If you want a Batman comic to follow, there are far better options out there.
On the other hand, Flash is one of the better comics to come out of this reboot, which is his saving grace for starting this in the first place. The art is absolutely incredible, the panel design is jaw-dropping and I’m liking the new supporting characters. Mob Rule himself is one of the cooler villain concepts in a while and I wouldn’t mind seeing him get a higher profile in the DCU. Now we’re getting a big story for Captain Cold and that’s never a bad thing. Read this if you aren’t already.
While the art isn’t my cup of tea, I still enjoy Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE. It’s exactly the kind of comic that DC should have come out with years ago after Seven Soldiers wrapped up. A more colorful version of Hellboy, it plays well in its own corner of the DCU. SHADE seems a bit better defined since the reboot, especially in relation to Checkmate. I’m sad that Lemire is going to take off in a few issues, but I’ve heard good things about his replacement Matt Kindt, so we’ll see how that goes.
Fury of the Firestorms: The Nuclear Men is something I really wanted to like because it’s so balls-out insane, but… no. Not only does it go way too far into the Gail Simone “these people are supposed to be evil and I’ll prove it by making them SO FUCKING EVIL YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT!” tic, but it beats us over the head with the most hilariously ham-fisted racial garbage in the first couple issues. I still find it amazing how Ronnie questions himself over why he doesn’t have any black friends when the only person in the issue shown to be his friend is black. While the idea of the two main Firestorms doing a Fusion Dance into a more powerful Firestorm instead of having one relegated into obscurity is a good one, the comic just doesn’t do anything for me.
Speaking of not doing anything, I read one issue of Green Arrow and that was enough. Nothing like taking a staple of DC and going out of your way to make him infinitely more forgettable. This rebooted Green Arrow probably eats ricecakes all the time instead of chili. I get that Ann Nocenti is supposed to be turning this into something worth looking at, but I’m going to let word of mouth dictate my purchase after the fact.
For the most part, I’m really pleased with the current whereabouts of the Green Lantern universe. The main Green Lantern comic is fantastic, outside of the last issue’s rather unfortunate art. Geoff Johns got a lot of flak for the way he wrote Hal Jordan ever since Green Lantern: Rebirth, making him the coolest, most competent dude ever. Ever since the reboot, Johns has been improving his output by making Hal incredibly flawed. He’s obsessed with his ring, is full of himself, is selfish and just plain doesn’t understand basic human interaction. Meanwhile, Sinestro is being shoved into a redemption storyline when he himself wants no part of redemption, especially because he doesn’t believe he’s done anything wrong in the first place. I’m loving Sinestro’s new role and I hope it lasts.
Green Lantern Corps isn’t quite as good, but I enjoy it nonetheless. Giving Guy Gardner his own solo series did nothing for me, but giving him a whole corps to play off of makes it right again. One of the things I’m finding interesting is the path they’re setting for John. It looks like they’re building up on him killing Mogo during War of the Green Lanterns by putting him in a slippery slope. In the latest issue, he killed a Lantern who was about to give vital information under the duress of torture. Sure, he saved lives with it and stopped the bad guys, but was it truly necessary? And will he continue to act this way?
While it doesn’t appear to have an idea of what it’s supposed to really be yet, I endorse Green Lantern: New Guardians. It’s the comic equivalent of having your cake and eating it too. One of DC’s biggest successes in the past decade has been introducing all the different Lantern Corps across the universe. Obviously, they have garnered lots of attention and fandom. They’re major parts of the Lantern mythos. But Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps can only do so much. Should they continue with the various Lanterns every month while ignoring any attempts at new stories or even revisited concepts that don’t involve Saint Walker and Larfleeze? Hence, New Guardians. It’s like a lengthy side-story to the Lantern corner of DC that allows the main players to do their own thing and stay in the limelight while the other writers tell even more stories about how the Oans have been secretly doing terrible shit for eons.
Grifter is something I wanted to like, but I dropped it after realizing that it refused to do more than spin its wheels. Liefeld’s taking over, so I’m not regretting my decision.
Hawk and Dove… yeah. Not good. Canceled. Next.
I, Vampire is one of the biggest surprises of the reboot. Cool art and a cool vampire war going on in the underbelly of DC, headed by two opposed lovers. The latest issue already messes with the status quo in an unforeseen way, but I’ll gladly follow this series until it’s killed by low sales.
Justice League has acted like bookends to the whole reboot, coming out the first week and last week. I’m not really sure how to express my feelings on it. As an outline, it’s a really solid first arc that gets the team together and introduces Darkseid in a summer blockbuster way. Unfortunately, in action, Johns writes some of the worst dialogue of his career. ESPECIALLY the last few pages of the sixth issue. I’m usually cool enough with Johns’ work to give it more of a chance, especially since we’re moving into the present day stuff, but some of that stuff was head-shakingly awkward.
I rather enjoyed the Pandora backup story, especially since it seems they might be using her to take the heat off Flash for causing Flashpoint (much like Johns did with Parallax and Hal Jordan), but her guns are hokey as hell.
Justice League Dark is something I dropped because it spent too long farting around. I hear it’s picked up a bit and Lemire is jumping on, so I guess I’m back on the train.
Justice League International took some time to get me to warm up, but not I’m on board. It doesn’t measure up to the old Giffen/DeMatteis days of the series, but it does feel warmer and stronger than the other two Justice League runs going on right now. It’s not the best comic, but it’s certainly a strong team comic.
The whole Legion corner of DC has never seemed to grab me and neither Legion of Super-Heroes nor Legion Lost have made any attempt to rectify that. I left both debut issues scratching my head and simply moved on.
Men of War almost worked for me. I like the concept of soldiers dealing with superhero fights going on in the background, but I couldn’t bring myself to care enough about anything going on. The backup story weighed it down even worse. Had to drop this one early on.
Mister Terrific stars a character I really want to get into, but this series is a mess. I had Chris Eckert explain the rest of the opening plot to me and I stand by my dropping of the series.
How fitting that Nightwing is also about a character I really want to enjoy. I’m one of those guys who liked Dick Grayson Batman more than Bruce, so I was pleased to at least have this series to fall back on. Pretty bland, so I ended up having to give it up after four issues.
OMAC is something I’ve enjoyed the hell out of. It’s over-the-top ridiculous and easily the best thing Dan Didio’s written, though I don’t have much of a choice in keeping on the series due to its impending cancelation at #8. I’m not too sad about it as going on with the same stuff every month as it is would get pretty old quick. I think the crossover with Frankenstein showed that while OMAC is a fine diversion, it’s lacking meat when compared to most others.
Red Hood and the Outlaws did nothing for me and the whole “Starfire is a gigantic slut” situation didn’t do it any favors.
While the Green Lantern corner has been mostly a success, the first issue of Red Lanterns sent me running in the opposite direction. The writing just couldn’t make up for the Ed Benes art. I’d probably give it another chance if they switched artists.
I like Resurrection Man despite having never read the original run. I understand enough of it through this run, which is a good sign. It overdoes the fanservice aspect, what with the Body Doubles flashing their underwear in every other shot, but now it’s beginning to move past that. It is weird to have a series that’s based on the hero getting the shit kicked out of him to the point of death, sometimes twice an issue, but it’s working on me.
I don’t recall much about Savage Hawkman other than him not wanting to be Hawkman anymore and then being attacked by Venom symbiotes. Nice art, but nothing to convince me that Hawkman is worth caring about.
Static Shock I went with for a while. The art hurt it and the overall charm of it kept it strong for a few issues, but the internal struggles between writer, artist and editor do make it to the pages and it slowly ruins it for me. By the sixth issue, I realized that I wasn’t really enjoying it anymore and that the lamer concepts were outshining the better ones. A moot point, since it’s ending at #8. Coincidentally, my comic guy tells me that it’s the lowest selling DC title at the shop.
As a fan of the Authority, I take to Stormwatch very easily. I still think the idea of putting Martian Manhunter on the team, which is basically DC’s Agents of Atlas, is inspired. Apollo and Midnighter work as the two outsiders who get introduced to the team’s concepts at the same time as we, the readers. People complain about the art, but I don’t mind it. Milligan is coming on as writer soon and I’m more than willing to give that a try.
Suicide Squad has caught a lot of criticism and a lot of it deserved (I still don’t understand what’s so wrong about Harley jokingly referring to her lady business as a “clown car” when the gag is that she’s calling Deadshot well-endowed) and while I’m still heavily annoyed by the slim and trim Amanda Waller, there’s a good deal of fun in seeing these assholes getting led around into crazier situations. The main three on the roster (Deadshot, Harley and King Shark) are hard to screw up and so far, they’ve continued to be the highlights of the series. It’s a bad issue away from me being done, but I’m currently getting a kick out of it.
Superboy is the best of the Scott Lobdell books, but I still couldn’t handle it for more than three issues. There are some good ideas in there, but nothing strong enough for me to keep paying attention. The art is a turnoff too. It isn’t awful, but it feels so ill-fitting.
Supergirl is the opposite. The art is sweet and I’m enjoying the journey. I think it boils down to Supergirl filling in the void left by Cassandra Cain Batgirl. She can’t understand English, she’s violent, she thinks more with her fists and she’s forced to distance herself from her former life and start over. She’s still trying to make sense of her existence to the point that only hours have passed in her entire comic. This is the first time I’ve cared about the character, so bravo on that.
If I can go off on a tangent for a second, I have to point out how funny I find Supergirl’s outfit. So she’s got the armor with no leggings, making her one of the more scantily-clad women of the reboot. There’s a segment in one issue where she’s kidnapped and left in her underwear while scientists look over her threads. While the idea of her being in her undies is supposed to be titillating, it falls flat due to her wearing something that covers the same as her regular outfit, only it’s black.
Superman is too wordy and bland to compare to Action Comics. Don’t care.
It’s fitting that Swamp Thing is the sister series to Animal Man, as it hits the same beats. It’s just as off-putting and disturbing with the same sense of hopelessness sprinkled with the occasional badass moment. The big difference between the two is that Animal Man had a solid first issue and continued off that while Swamp Thing started out troubled and slowly caught up.
Teen Titans is a team book where everybody in it annoys me to no end. No thanks.
Voodoo is what people think about when they imagine a Top Cow book. I tried to give it a second chance, but I found everything unlikeable and cut ties.
That leaves Wonder Woman, which is in Aquaman and Supergirl‘s company as a character I’ve never cared for in a comic I’m especially digging. As Supergirl takes the spot of Cassandra Cain, Wonder Woman replaces Incredible Hercules in my eyes. Beautiful art (even the fill-in stuff isn’t bad), neat concepts, great action and a strong supporting cast. I keep hearing about how great the Rucka run on the character was and if anything would get me to check out those old issues, it’s to ride the wave of how much this comic is doing it for me.
That’s 25 of the New 52 that I’m still holding onto. Of the second wave, the only thing that I care to check out is Batman Inc., which I had been reading already. That’s 1-2 more titles than I pick up for Marvel, though at the same time, Marvel releases some of their series more than once a month. Still, I was down to only a few DC titles to begin with before Flashpoint hit, so in the end, this is definitely a success for DC.