Digesting the New 52: The Dark Knight Returns

1 10 2011

Batman #1

As I mentioned in my previous column, perhaps the biggest “buy in” for me when it comes to the DC Comics relaunch is the accessibility of the books to a new reader, particularly a young reader such as one of my students.  DC has claimed that the “New 52” is all about appealing to new readers, and I applaud their effort to grow an ever-shrinking fanbase.

That said, I should clarify that not all of the books that I like are necessarily appropriate for a younger audience.  I tread lightly when I recommend books, movies, shows, and games to my students; not only do I pay attention to the recommended age or rating, but I try to have a pretty good idea how the student – and their parents – will react to it.  I once got a nasty phone call from a parent who was upset that her daughter checked out a book from the school library that contained supernatural elements.  The mom was very religious, and was angry that I was corrupting her daughter.  This was a book that hadn’t even heard of, let alone read it, but it apparently didn’t matter that the girl picked it out on her own and I was in no way involved in the process.  I’m the teacher, so I should know these things, I guess.  Anyway, it’s probably common sense, but still worth noting that there’s a lot of “Rated T for Teen” stuff out there – and even some “PG” stuff – that I wouldn’t suggest to one of my teenage students, even if I personally find it awesome.

Detective Comics #1

I figured I’d start with the Batman titles.  From what I can tell, there hasn’t been much change to the Bat-universe following the reboot, although I’m not a regular reader of the recent Batbooks, so I might be missing something.  On the one hand, I’m one of those long-time DC readers who is apprehensive about big continuity changes, so it was nice to see things fairly unscathed.  On the other hand, it frankly felt a bit, well, unfair.  As I discovered throughout the reboot, some of my favorite stories were wiped out completely, and characters I love were left in limbo or changed completely.  Also, this whole mess was supposed to be about sweeping changes, and making things comfortable for new readers.  Neither is happening in the core Batman books.

Batman & Robin #1

And that’s not to say that any of the titles are “bad,” or that a new reader couldn’t pick up any of them and follow what’s going on.  In fact, the art on all four titles is excellent, and for the most part the stories were intriguing.  I’d probably pick Detective Comics as my favorite of the bunch, but ultimately the four titles seemed interchangeable.

When I was a hardcore Bat-reader, Batman and Detective Comics were the two main titles, and both had a distinctively different flavor.  Detective focused on mostly solo Batman adventures that involved him lurking in the shadows and using his skills to solve mysteries.  Meanwhile, Batman was more about super-heroics, and was the book where you’d see more Bat-gadgets, traditional super villains, and where Robin was most likely to show up.  Now, all four books have a more gritty, edgy take on the character.  Obviously, Batman & Robin focuses on his relationship with Damian, the latest Robin (who is more irritating than Jason Todd ever dreamed of being).  And it bears mentioning that Batman featured more of Bruce Wayne out of costume, as well as an apparent tie-in with Nightwing.

Batman: The Dark Knight #1

While all four books are well-drawn, and have decent writing, I wasn’t captivated enough by any of them to continue with them.  Some of them contained elements that were violent, disturbing, and even gory.  Detective had the most intriguing story, but a really gruesome ending.  Batman & Robin is unreadable if you don’t care for an arrogant, ultra-violent, murderous Boy Wonder.  Batman: The Dark Knight was solid for the most part, but had a ridiculous ending that had me shaking my head.  Batman was probably the best for new readers and younger readers, but it was also kind of boring.  Pretty, but boring.

Next time… Superman and friends!

-dEV

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