The GeeksverseThe Year In The New 52

The Year In The New 52
Published on Tuesday, September 4, 2012 by

DC’s The New 52 is a year old and everyone is doing a restrospective, so why not us?

Anyone that’s been visiting the ‘Verse since last years knows how I feel about the New 52, or at least the idea behind it, I didn’t like it. I like Marvel’s version, Marvel NOW!, better. Not a relaunch or rebranding, just using a major event to instill new life into the universe. That is what DC should have done post-Flashpoint, and really should have used a better event to jumpstart it all.

I wonder how much the top brass at DC wishes they had gone that route, but that is hindsight and we’re stuck with what we got. I’ll be honest, as much as I didn’t like the idea of the New 52, I did want it to succeed and bring in new readers. The industry needs new blood badly and something like this could have really helped jumpstart the industry. Instead we got more of the same.

I love the Wildstorm universe, always have, and I was intrigued about the idea of it mixing with the DC Universe. Sadly it hasn’t mixed well at all. The upcoming Team 7 should, hopefully, mix it better but still looks only on the edges.

And that’s as good a place as any to start looking back on the New 52. I’ll start with what I didn’t like, which is a longer list then what I liked. This could have succeeded and worked really well, but like many ideas the execution fails.

1- The reboot and lack of a universe.
This failed because each title feels like a seperate universe. There’s no longer a sense of connection between characters and books. It doesn’t feel thought out, it feels like a mish mash of ideas thrown together. No backstory
And not all titles were rebooted, there are only two that weren’t: Green Lantern and Batman. Why weren’t those two? 2/3s of DC’s Trinity (Superman and Wonder Woman) were rebooted. Why wasn’t Batman? Probably because Grant Morrison wasn’t done telling his Batman story yet. Why wasn’t Green Lantern? Because Geoff Johns makes the decisions and he didn’t want to erase all he had been working towards the last 5+ years? I hope I’m wrong but it seems odd that those two books (or groups of books) didn’t get the rewrite treatment.
Because of that it gives the entire universe the incomplete feeling. Because those Batman and Green Lantern stories still exist, or most of them, it can negate and contradict what is being set up in the “new” universes of the other books. And that causes a failure of the universe.
DC had time to really create a cohesive universe, really weave together the Wildstorm and DC universes and make something fresh and new and consistent. But instead it feels like each book was created in it’s own vacuum. Wonder Woman in Justice League reads, talks and feels like a completely different character then in her own series. One could easily be renamed and it wouldn’t make a difference to the other. I, Vampire was supposed to interact with the DC Universe, showing the vampire threat. Sure it has interacted, but in it’s own book. The vampires caused a massacre in Boston and have been growing as a threat. Where are Superman and the Justice League to combat it? Why haven’t heroes and/or villans been turned into vampires? Where is this threat in the rest of the DCU?

Was she Oracle?

2- The 5 year gap and jumping into the deep end
Justice League, the first New 52 title, started out five years ago and showed the introduction of super heroes to the world. The rest of the books picked up in the present day. Those five years were left to mystery and the new readers, which we all were to these books, jumped into them in the deep end. These characters, for the most part, were already developed. The reader didn’t get to watch them grow, learn about them and grow attached to them. Instead we were thrown in and told to like them already.
Some books handled this better then others. Wonder Woman is easily accessible to the new reader. Stormwatch was not. Teen Titans handled it by starting the team off at that point. Even Justice League didn’t get it right. After the title returned to the present, the cast still talked and interacted like they were rookies and new to eachother, not like they had 5 years of experience behind them. If Johns, one of the big 3 at DC, couldn’t handle the 5 year gap how were others expected to?
And with books like Batman not rebooting, that means an awful lot of story happened in those 5 years. There were still multiple Robins (Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake and now Damian Wayne). Barbara Gordon became Batgirl, got shot and became Oracle and then became Batgirl again. Jason Todd was killed and came back. Nightwing spent time as Batman.
All that happened in 5 years?
And there were reasons that Earth needed 4 Green Lanterns in 5 years? Hal Jordan was that much of a screw-up that the Guardians needed to make a new GL every year basically?
This causes ripple effects throughout all the affected books.
Good writing could probably have helped, but that was in short supply..

3- Creative team changes and books being canceled.
The New 52 that opened a year ago is not the New 52 of today and isn’t the New 52 of tomorrow (as four more books get canceled and 4 new ones take it’s place). There has been so much creator shuffling, quittings and firings that almost none of the books look like they started. And that doesn’t even get into the amount of fill-in artists that the books have experienced.
Books get canceled all the time but this has been crazy. 12 of the original 52 books will have been canceled and replaced. We’re really supposed to believe that there was a cohesiveness behind the universe when 12 of the starting books have been replaced? And of those that are still around, the creators have changed so much that the stories have shifted and changed even more. The Grifter in the book right now doesn’t resemble, besides name, the one that started out.
I wonder how long Aquaman will last with Geoff Johns off the book. The character doesn’t have a good history of being able to maintain sales once the big name is off. Peter David had brought the book to new heights and popularity. He left and the book sank in sales again.
The amount of changes borderline on ridiculous. There have been rumors, from notables like George Perez and Rob Liefeld, of editorial issues behind the scenes. All is not right at DC Comics.

That’s three major issues with the New 52. Three major fundamental issues. You have to applaud DC for the daring to reset their entire universe but it’s the execution that failed. Over time there will be more and more flaws and cracks exposed, more and more stories will fall apart.

The reason that led to DC needing to do the New 52? It’s the same reason that led to Zero Hour. The same reason that led to Crisis On Infinite Earths. The reason is the messed up continuity. Crisis needed to happen. DC had 30+ years of stories that were all over the map. Contradictory across titles, and even within titles. There was just too much loose history that needed to be reigned in and controled. That led to Crisis. Granted that the New 52’s main reason wasn’t to fix continuity, it wasn’t quite as bad as pre-Crisis, but that was a reason. The main reason was sales. And that brings us to the minor issues with the New 52.

4- Shocks for the sake of shocks
Poison Ivy is on the Birds Of Prey? Superman isn’t married to Lois Lane? Barry Allen isn’t married to Iris? Wally West doesn’t exist (and yet we have 4 Earth Green Lanterns….)? There were no Teen Titans (but Scott Lodbell’s Red Hood hinted at it, but his Teen Titans said no…)?
I’m not even going to get into the story shocks (Joker’s face removal, Starfire’s lack of modesty, Catwoman and Batman’s romp, among others), but just look at the ones that were there just to sell titles. On one hand, the removal of the marriages, does allow for a fresh start and for that I applaud those moves. The books couldn’t start fresh without it. But it’s the reasons behind it, to generate news, that I don’t like.
Poison Ivy’s time on the BoP is coming to an end and it was such a wasted time. Because of the 5 year gap, we never got to see the team form and why the members came to be on the team. Ivy just showed up. And now is gone and it makes her feel like nothing but a “shock” to get people to buy the book.

5- More of the same and no risks
Yes, the new 52 did launch a bunch of titles starring some B-Listers and gave some titles another shot. But really, where were the risks? You’re starting fresh. Why not have Resurrection Man be part of the Justice League? Why go with a Justice League that everyone knows? Why not let some of the Wildstorm characters be more front and center? Stormwatch was hinted to be vitally important to the DCU, but so far it’s been a fringe organization and not very involved in the DCU. The integration between the WS and DCU books has been pretty minor. The involvement of the fringe books with the main DCU has been pretty minor.
Some books got a fresh coat of paint but it’s still just more of the same.

Why isn't there some Wildstorm characters?

Instead of Steve Trevor why not have it be John Lynch? Aside from Stormwatch, which had League stalwart Martian Manhunter amongst the Wildstorm cast, there wasn’t any real mix of WS and DC. Helspont showed up in Superman, but since the story is more felt in the WS books (Voodoo, Grifter and Stormwatch) the appearance felt like just a sales booster. Kind of like when Marvel had Jean Grey’s coccoon show up in Avengers and Fantastic Four before X-Factor, to help give X-Factor a launch boost. The Demon is showing up in Stormwatch and it seems like the Demon Knights title will involve Stormwatch (hint, the Demon Knights become Stormwatch) but again that is just the fringe.
Where were the risks?
DC made some noise about diversity of the books and characters but did it in a pretty risk-free way.
Where were the Milestone characters?
Wouldn’t a Justice League consisting of Superman, Batman, Hardware, Battalion, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Spartan have been more newsworthy and really integrated the universes as well as taken a risk?
The new Justice League book? All DC characters and no Wildstorm. How does Stargirl exist if there’s been no Starman?

6- The multiverse is back
Earth 2 is one of my favorite DC books and it’s one that took a risk. Kind of funny that DC took the risk in an alternate universe. But why does that alternate universe exist? Wasn’t the point of Flashpoint to combine all the DC universes, including Wildstorm and others, into one? So why does Earth 2 exist? It makes no sense.

Not all is wrong with the New 52.

Earth 2 is a very solid book and it took risks. Killing off Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman is a big risk. For old readers it’s interesting seeing the Justice Society characters be the new guys. For the new readers it’s fun to see a different take on the world.

Diverse, but not if it stands alone in the corner

Wonder Woman is probably my favorite book out of the New 52 because it illustrates what could have been right about the relaunch. This is a book that took a risk. This isn’t super hero Wonder Woman, this is Amazonian Princess Wonder Woman. This is a new take on the character, this is a new look, a new feel. This is a different book. Her super hero costume looks out of place in this book. The book is imaginitive, it remains true to the character, but it is also different. Brian Azzarello played around with her origins and it works, it works extremely well. The new take on the Amazons and why there are no men? Daring.

Scott Synder, even though he took over books that didn’t get the benefit of a fresh start, has done very well with retconning in the Court of Owls. Even though I don’t read Batman, I still appreciate the work that he did. This was a rare perfect retcon (the only other one that comes to mind is Ed Brubaker’s Winter Soldier/Bucky) and it affected other titles (notably Nightwing) in a way that worked with those titles and didn’t contradict them.

In fact Synder’s “relaunch” of Batman feels closer to the Marvel NOW! initiative then it does to the rest of the New 52. Batman was a book that wasn’t relaunched, but it was given a fresh start and really for the DCU that was what was needed.

The first year of the New 52 has come and gone and sales have gone up, for the most part. So the reboot was a success for DC in the short term. It’s the long term that I worry about. Let’s see how things stand at the end of the second year.

4 Responses
    • I only read two DC titles. Both are not part of the relaunch. I did read the collection of Batman with the more action oriented Alfred that looked like Sam Eliot and it was good but it just felt a tad bit off.

    • I wanted to like this reboot. I’d grown so sick of those damn event crossovers every month. DC needed something to wash away the time punches. Even though you could argue that 52 WAS the event I liked that I could read most of these books without having to worry about the story being interrupted or derailed by some paper thin event a few months in (the main reason I had stopped reading Marvel by this point). And while I liked some elements of the reboot they soon became far outweighed by the things I didn’t like. Taking Superman back to his golden age throw a wifebeater through a wall personality wasn’t worth losing the marriage for me. In hindsight the changes I liked didn’t even require a reboot. Mostly I was left fumbling around in the dark not knowing what had come before, what stories happened, which didnt. There was no longer a sense of legacy. Characters like Captain Marvel that I once loved were unrecognizable. More and more it started to feel claustrophobic in its 5 year timeframe. Like their grand plan was being made up as they went. And worst of all it felt …artificial, I guess. About as sincere as and with all the substance of a used car salesman pushing stuff that I didn’t want and telling me the whole time how much I liked it. In the end my favorite book ended up being All Star Western simply because it was more or less removed from the main line of books. That’s a bit of a failure in my eyes.

    • What is she doing to batman? D:

      • I don’t know, but whatever it is, it breaks the laws of (even comic book) anatomy: Judging by the position of her right foot and where her right knee is projected to be, her right lower leg is way, way too long. Unless she got stretching powers during the Nu52 reboot. Then I guess it’s okay.

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