Digesting the New 52: One Year Later

9 08 2012

‘Earth 2’ by James Robinson and Nicola Scott is one of the better DC books out now, partially because it’s not saddled with DCnU continuity issues.

Sorry for the delay in updating, but it’s turned out to be quite the hectic summer for us. I plan on rectifying that in fairly short order. One of my goals for this blog over the next year is to focus on more original content and commentary, while at the same time continuing to link to interesting, timely, and topical articles that I think you’ll enjoy.

As you’ll probably recall, my wife and I were able to attend the San Diego Comic Con last month. I’ll be blogging more about our experience at a later time, but one of the side effects of attending a big show like this is typically a shift in my buying habits. I think it’s a combination of meeting artists and writers, getting some insight into upcoming shorelines, and being introduced to stuff I’ve never read before. I end up dropping things that I’ve been buying out of habit, cutting books that are going in a direction I don’t care for, and picking up titles that have me excited about reading comics again.

As for the New 52 books, I’m making a few changes to my pull list. Resurrection Man and Justice League International are ending soon. Blue Beetle continues to be a bit stagnant and depressing, and Justice League is all flash with no substance. So those four books are off my pull list following the zero issues. Action Comics is getting a stay of execution for now.

I have no good excuse for not keeping up with ‘Wonder Woman.’ I’m trying to fix that.

Meanwhile, as I previously discussed, Wonder Woman was a book that I enjoyed and couldn’t really explain why I stopped buying it. I had the pleasure of meeting Cliff Chiang at Comic Con, and have fallen in love with his artwork, especially his covers. I bought a gorgeous classic Avengers print from him, and if I would’ve had the cash, would have bought several more. In chatting with him, I again started asking myself why Wonder Woman wasn’t on my pull list, especially considering it’s mythological noir is right up my wife’s alley. As soon as I got back home, it went on the list and I am in the process of catching up on the issues I missed.

Nicola Scott is also fast becoming one of my favorite artists. While waiting in line to meet her and writer James Robinson, I struck up a conversation with some other folks that were in the queue (side note: one of my favorite things about Comic Con is meeting people in line and talking about comics). Why aren’t you reading Earth 2, people asked. It’s James Robinson and Nicola Scott! And if you’re disenchanted with the DCnU, it’s a completely different take on everything! I picked up the first issue, and was immediately hooked. In case you missed it, Earth 2 takes place on an alternate Earth where things have turned out quite differently. It brings back elements of the Golden Age DC Universe, but starting from scratch with a completely new spin. I’ve caught up to issue three, and plan on sticking around for a while to see where it goes.

Following the upcoming zero issues, that leaves my pull list to include: Demon Knights, Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Action Comics, and Earth 2. It’s worth noting that I’ll be purchasing three fewer DC books a month than I was before the New 52 relaunch. On top of that, Demon Knights takes place in the distant past, Earth 2 in a parallel universe, and Action Comics in the early days of Superman’s career. What’s going on in the mainstream DCnU… well, it’s just not all that appealing to me. And here are some reasons:

A crossover and a major creative team change simultaneously? Great jumping-off point. Sorry, ‘Legion Lost.’

Crossovers Kill Me.

Legion Lost was finding its groove, and suddenly decided to cross over with both Teen Titans and Ravagers. Nightwing‘s first story arc was interesting, but it became quickly apparent that you needed to be buying Batman if you wanted the whole story. I was liking Resurrection Man just fine, until they did a crossover with Suicide Squad, which I don’t buy. Justice League International did a pseudo-crossover with Firestorm and brought in characters from Batwing and OMAC at the expense of characters I enjoyed reading about.

The easiest way to lose my interest in a title and create a great jumping-off point for me is to throw in an unnecessary crossover with a book I don’t normally buy. While I’m sure the publishers look at it as a way to give a sales bump to both titles by cross-pollinating the readership, it has the opposite effect on me. And especially so early following the relaunch, when the primary objective should be reintroducing the characters and setting, establishing the new status quo, and telling an attention-grabbing story with good art, dumping a crossover in the middle of things completely interrupts to flow of things. I usually end up pulling the plug.

Legacy No More.

My favorite DC character is Blue Beetle. The Ted Kord version, actually. I appreciated that Ted picked up where his mentor, Dan Garret, left off despite the fact that he had no super powers. He used his intelligence, wits, and skill to become a hero in his own right, while carrying on and honoring the name of his predecessor. Jaime Reyes, despite having no personal connection to Dan or Ted, took up the mantle of the Blue Beetle after inheriting Dan’s mystical scarab. Over time, Jaime learned more about his predecessors and worked to respect and uphold what they stood for.

This is one of the greatest comics stories of all time. It never happened.

Following Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Golden Age characters were folded into the main DC Universe, and served as predecessors and inspirations for modern heroes. It created a connection to the past, and created a sense of history and depth to the continuity. Some characters, like the original Green Lantern and Flash, managed to stay somewhat vital and coexist with their predecessors, serving as mentors to the younger generation.

All of that is gone now. And with it, the established origins and motivations for several characters went out the window. A universe that once showed so much depth is now… shallow.

It Never Happened.

Going along with that idea, I’ve talked a bit before about how disappointed I was in the new Justice League International. The charm of the original series was the way the characters played off of each other, and developed genuine and believable relationships. Well, that’s all gone. These people don’t know each other anymore. They just met. All that stuff I liked about those characters; the stuff that really made them tick… gone.

Twenty years in the making, it’s a good thing that ‘Games’ was finally released before the Teen Titans were erased from continuity.

I hold up The Judas Contract as one of the top ten stories ever done in the history of comics. Well, that story never happened. Not only did that story never happen, the Teen Titans never happened. Thousands of stories that led to so much character development were just erased

Yeah, sometimes you have to let go of the past. Nothing lasts forever, it’s just comics, you can always go back and read the old stuff. I get all that. But in my case, when so much of what draws me to the characters has been done away with, why would I want to continue reading about them? You got rid of the stuff I liked. Baby and bathwater and all that.

Missing In Action.

Wally West. Stephanie Brown. Donna Troy. Ted Kord. There are far too many to name. These were characters with huge fantasies that a lot of us grew up with. Frankly, I’m more used to Wally being the Flash than Barry Allen. We’ve had a year of winks and nods and “wait and see.” I’m at the point where I’m assuming that these characters are just not coming back, at least not in the mainstream DCnU. If that’s the case, just say so. The teasing and false-promises have worn out their welcome.

Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s ‘Batman’ is one of the New 52’s biggest success stories. But couldn’t it have happened without wiping out the rest of the DC Universe?

Special Treatment.

Before the relaunch, it was promised — and essentially delivered — that the Batman and Green Lantern titles would experience very little, if any, rebooting. Those books were solid sellers, after all. Why mess with something if it’s working? As a result, a few tweaks were made to the timelines (some of which make absolutely no sense), but for the most part if you were reading Green Lantern pre-New 52, you probably didn’t notice any major shenanigans. The story essentially continued where it left off, and no characters got major overhauls.

I’m going to be a little selfish here. Why does Batman get to keep all his cool stuff, but everybody else has to start from scratch? Why does Green Lantern continue like nothing changed, but everybody else has to start at square one? As a parent or teacher, I know the answer is something akin to “life isn’t fair.”

Still, keeping the status quo for the Batman and Green Lantern titles has served to create a ripple effect of confusion onto other titles, and the sweeping changes that have affected the rest of the universe have ultimately sent shockwaves back into Bat-continuity. And a year later, we’re now hearing murmurs of stuff like “Tim Drake was never Robin,” which makes no sense whatsoever to anyone outside of DC editorial.

In my next Digesting the New 52 column, I’ll take a closer look at some of the continuity changes, weigh the good and the bad, and try to answer the question, “Was it really necessary to reboot everything?” Stay tuned!

-dEV

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