Just over a year ago, DC Comics re-launched their entire lineup during an event known as The New 52. Character lore and all previous stories were abandoned, and 52 “new” books were launched as #1 issues.
I don’t buy as many comics as I used to, but I like to drop in from time to time and take home a few current ones to see what’s going on with my favorite superheroes. I’ll never get the whole picture, as most single issues tell only part of a larger story. There is, however, usually enough to see if I’d like to read the trade paperback sometime down the road.
I’ve amassed a collection of DC stories that run from their very first attempt at a company-wide reboot, Crisis on Infinite Earths, to the Blackest Night event of a couple years ago. Lately, though, I’ve been largely out-of-touch with the current adventures of Batman, Superman, and the rest of the Justice League.
My last window into the DC Universe was with a dozen or so of The New 52 #1s. Overall, they hadn’t thrilled me. A week ago, I decided it was time to check in again, and walked out of the local toyshop with 15 titles from the $2 clearance box. They cover a hopefully representative swath of DC’s latest offerings. I came away with issues as recent as #13, or one month behind the current number, and including several of the #0s, which were part of a one-year anniversary event and function as prequels to the present stories. I was excited to see if the blank slate concept had paid off.
In short, the answer is “no”.
The New 52 is a mess of confusing storytelling, weak characterization, sexist overtones, re-tread plots, and over-the-top violence. This sucks all of the fun right out of the world. And fun is what comics should be. They should be adventure stories. You shouldn’t feel like you need to shower after reading them. Some are worse. Some are boring.
The “highlights”, then.
Aquaman spies on his teenage daughter as she changes her clothes in Batman Beyond Unlimited #7. She knows he’s there. That’s creepy.
Powergirl’s new, “modest”, costume keeps getting blasted off. Huntress makes a joke about this. That’s about all you’ll get out of World’s Finest #5.
The new Green Lantern in Green Lantern #13, Simon Baz, is of Arabic descent, and one of the first beats in his origin story is that he’s mistaken for a terrorist. Really? He’s an intergalactic policeman, and this is the best way to introduce him? Does a space comic have to play on ethnicity?
In Nightwing #13, Barbara Gordon, who, in the old continuity, was a strong, independent woman, even though she’d been paralyzed by the Joker, is healed. But now, as Batgirl again, she’s portrayed as nothing more than a whining, terrified little girl. It’s not an improvement.
For Birds of Prey #12, my only notes were “nothing makes sense.”
And in Legends of the Dark Knight #1, Batman says the following: “I hate space. It can kill you in under a minute.” That’s dialogue right out of “Attack of the Clones”, there.
Not quite everything was terrible. Three issues stood above the rest. Wonder Woman #12 was a creative fusion of Greek myth and DC’s New Gods. Batman and Robin #13 has a space-rocket ride and a zombie attack. It’s hard to go wrong with those elements. Lastly, Justice League #13 had several compelling story threads and colorful, vibrant artwork.
Still, on the whole, the quality of The New 52 is underwhelming. I’d really like to think that maybe this batch is an anomaly. After all, these are only 15 out of 52 monthly titles. Maybe these ones were in the bargain bin for a reason and the really good ones are sold out. Maybe, like in the first seasons of great TV shows, the writers need a little bit more time to play in their new sandbox and even this lot can improve. I hope so. Otherwise I’ll have to start reading Marvel.
The other comics that I based my impression on:
Batman and Robin #0
Detective Comics #13
Justice League #0
Red Hood and the Outlaws #13
Red Lanterns #12