Now that all the #12’s to all titles are out, I thought I would give my thoughts on the new 52. Its hard to review an entire branding on its own seeing as there are good books and there are bad books all over the DC spectrum, but I thought I would try to take on the task anyway. Let’s face it, there are things that work and other things that don’t work very well. I’m not just talking in terms of story either, but in terms of art work and in terms of editing that seems to throw us for a loop. So here it is. The good and the bad of the New 52.
One thing that has worked for the new 52 is the inclusion of updating superheroes. I know, many will say that writers have been updating heroes throughout the decades to make sure they fit into the context of the stories they have written. While this is true, its also not the full idea of an update. Superman was stuck in an endless loop of being an American icon that was since his debut in the late 1930’s. Because the world has gotten a lot darker and jaded since then, Superman’s golden and silver age ideas didn’t click with the current generations idea of a hero. Fast forwarding into the new 52, and in Action Comics, Superman is shown to be more lethal than he was pre-52. He was willing to show brute force to people he thought was doing bad while still on the side of the little guy. It actually got me to hear people say they loved Superman again because he was more darker than ever. While many will still complain about the update to Superman, it works for him in the Action Comics world in which he is a younger and less experienced hero.
But this isn’t just about him, as other heroes have seen updates that work to their benefit as well. Looking at Wonder Woman pre-52, I tend to see that I hated the final story DC had set-up for her. What works for Diana now is that they tweaked her origin but also made sure she is still the same Amazon we knew and loved. With a great cast of characters and with DC relying more on mythology rather than super heroics unlike the rest of the 52, has seen a benefit of being a center piece in the new world.
More than anything, updates have been good for high profile characters of the new 52. Flash, Aquaman and others have benefitted from this and, as a result, we’ve been able to see characters in a brand new light compared to the world we knew before this renumbering. And speaking of…
The renumbering was something that would also benefit new and casual readers. Simply put, its hard coming into comics and seeing big numbers for an issue in the corner. The renumbering helps ensure us that while the stories may refer to things in the past, we aren’t missing out on much because we’re brought up to speed in an instant. With this renumbering, we’re also seeing a steady date for comic releases. Too many times in the past would re become invested in a story only for the story to become delayed for not just for weeks but a month before either the story is decided to conclude in some kind of annual or it’s just forgotten about. With the renumbering, we haven’t had to worry about that (yet).
Also, the emergence of the Dark realm of the DC universe is a treat. Much like Marvel, DC dives into the sci-fi element more than not, but I’ve been amazed at how deep the story is for the fantasy parts of the new 52. I, vampire, Demon Knights, Justice League Dark, and other titles are true displays at how well thought out the renumbering has been in terms of bringing new life to the fantasy elements in DC.
What doesn’t work
There are positives to this whole thing but are a lot of negatives too so lets get to the problems we have with the DC Universe…
While there are some things that I said above helped Superman, there are other things that haven’t and it happens to be his stories. Make no mistake about it, Superman is the poster child for DC, yet here we are a whole year into his adventures and yet, while people like who he is in Action Comics, the story surrounding him aren’t very good. Action Comics is very average and it has to do with the way Grant Morrison is telling the story. Int eh previous arc, we saw some good ideas for a story come up while towards the end, we got copouts to some things that had been coming Clark way. But that’s also not the problem with how Morrison has handled Action Comics, as we have jumped through time and to other Earths instead of dealing with the actual development of Clark time as Superman. With Morrison leaving A.C. in a few issues, one has to wonder what will happen to the character and title once he’s gone. Will we get better stories? I certainly hope so, because the writing has to get better for this title sooner or later. But we aren’t nearly done with more of the Superman problems.
‘Superman’ the comic has been a big problem since the renumbering as we are now on our third writing team since this whole has happened. The biggest problem with this title is that it doesn’t seem like any writer coming on board has any idea of what they are actually doing. The stories seem to wrap too easily with terrible dialogue thrown in go along side the bad art that’s inside. In closing, this renumbering was a chance to put Superman on the map for DC after years of being left in the dark. If the publisher fails to make him a must read right now, then when will he be a must read?
Continuity has been a problem that’s been plaguing this entire renumbering to begin with. DC thought it was best to make this entire universe easier to understand by taking away the idea of heroes from the past and say all heroes showed up 5 years ago. Aside from Batman and Green Lantern, the slate was clean. The problem with this idea is that what happened and what didn’t? By doing a 5 year timeline, fans have scratched their heads as to why and how certain events have even taken place in the small timeframe. Especially for Batman who has had 4 sidekicks in the 5 year time span. It was mentioned that Jason Todd was only Robin for 2 years before his death and that he was the longest running robin in the entire Bat family, but if two years is the longest, what about Tim Drake? In Teen Titans #1, it was said that he was a Robin, yet Lobdell told us he was never a Robin. But how is it that he is trained to fight the way he does if he was never a Robin? And if he was trained, the how long did it take?
This has been one of the biggest problems with the entire new 52. If the editors can’t get their own stories right with what happens first and second or at all, how are we going to enjoy them if they are going to retcon things in the middle of a story arc?
For many this can be a positive, but for others it’s a negative. One of the problems pre-52 was how much we had crossovers, with DC using certain characters to get us to read other books. They did this so much that it could become hard to keep up with certain stories, especially if you’re on a tight budget. When the new 52 kicked off, the stories were self contained, keeping us more grounded to the characters that were in each title. That changed not even a half year into the new 52. Once we were getting settled into this new 52 world, we were told we had to jump from one book to another because characters were making appearances in other comics. Sometimes the stories were so significant to what was mentioned, we had to check out those aforementioned titles to keep us up with the books we were reading. I, Vampire, Justice League Dark, Red Hood and the Outlaws, and every Batman book that was connected to the Night of Owls story felt like they were forcing us to read every title that had some kind of association with their stories. If anything, Dc has to get better with this and allow readers, especially their new audience, to catch their breaths instead of trying to get more money out of people.
Last but not least, the jarring art work that occurs mid-comic. I get it, DC wants to get their books out on a timely fashion but sometimes it comes at the expense of the art. There have been times where I’ll read a comic and we’ll just end up having 2 or 3 artist on one regular issue and at times it can take you completely out of the book because the previous artwork has already set the tone for the story. This isn’t so bad when it’s a backup tale, but when its not, it can be really jarring and its something I hope DC figures out the problem to.
Overall, if I had to give the new 52 a grade…it would be a B-
There’s a lot of good books but there’s a few that should be improved if they intend to keep their comics significant in the mind of readers, especially with Marvel Now! Coming this Fall.