The State of DC Comics and The New 52

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Over the next few weeks and months we’ll be publishing a series of articles discussing the general state of a variety of families of titles or of major comic book initiatives. With February marking the end of the sixth month of DC’s New 52 relaunch it seemed like an opportune time to revisit the line and evaluate its current status. PTB has only been following a few DC titles so we’ll focus on those while still addressing the broader line.

The New 52 “Second Wave”

PTB: By most measures the New 52 has been a huge success for DC Comics. It’s only natural that with fifty-two new series not all are going to find an audience, so let’s begin with which of the original New 52 books have been canceled.

KevinMLD: DC has cancelled the following six books:

  • Men of War
  • Mister Terrific
  • O.M.A.C.
  • Hawk and Dove
  • Blackhawks
  • Static Shock

When these series were announced, I can’t say any of them sounded like they were going to be major hits, though it seemed like a small portion of the Internet had started rallying around O.M.A.C. during the month or two before it was actually cancelled. Hawk and Dove being cancelled is mildly surprising due to Rob Liefeld’s involvement, but he’s moving onto several other DC titles. Of these books, the only title I really enjoyed or followed was Men of War and that may not really have been cancelled.

PTB: I take it the replacements are continuing some of these stories. What are those books being replaced with?

KevinMLD: DC announced six new titles would be replacing the six cancelled books including:

  • The return of Batman Incorporated
  • G.I. Combat (a War That Time Forgot revamp that some people insist was already planned to run in Men of War but which is receiving a new title and a new #1)
  • World’s Finest (starring Power Girl and Huntress from Earth 2 trapped on Earth 1)
  • Earth 2 (starring the Justice Society… maybe)
  • The Ravagers (which is spinning out Teen Titans and Superboy)
  • Dial H (a Dial H for Hero revamp)

PTB: Earth 2 has always been a source of confusion for me. The Powergirl and Huntress we’ve been seeing in the New 52 are distinct from these Earth 2 versions?

KevinMLD: I don’t think Powergirl has shown up in costume since the launch of the New 52. Though we found out during Infinite Crisis she was a refugee from Earth 2 in the pre-New 52 DC universe. DC published a Huntress mini-series recently that I didn’t read, so I’m not sure if she knows she’s from Earth 2 yet. The pre-New 52 modern Huntress was definitely NOT from Earth 2.

PTB: With two Earth 2 series it seems like a big push to bring this world into the new DC Universe. I’ve been seeing some Jim Lee costume designs that I believe are for this series. Should we expect to see a second Superman and Batman here and is there any chance they’ll be aware of the continuity change?

KevinMLD: It definitely looks like we’ll be seeing Earth 2 version of DC’s trinity. Anything is possible, but from what we’ve seen it sounds like Batman is more interested in finding his missing daughter, the Huntress, than in restoring the pre-New 52 universe.

PTB: It’s interesting to see Batman Inc. on that list. Has there been any indication that Bruce Wayne has been keeping that operation running in the New 52?

KevinMLD: Yes. Absolutely. Batwing who has his own title is the Batman Inc. representative for Africa. And there have been other references to Bruce Wayne financing Batman’s operations.

PTB: Are the creative teams on these new books as high caliber as the initial launch?

KevinMLD: That assumes you consider the original New 52 creative teams high caliber. I generally think they were pretty mixed and I think that pattern continues with these new books. You can’t beat Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham on Batman Inc. James Robinson on Earth 2 is hit or miss, but he’s working with Nicola Scott whose art is great more often than not. People are very excited for novelist China Miéville’s comics debut on Dial H. However, J.T. Krul, Howard Mackie and Paul Levitz tend to do nothing to get me excited for the other new series.

The New 52’s Greatest Hits

PTB: Moving on to the books that are continuing once May arrives, what books were the top-selling from the first wave?

KevinMLD: The top ten selling comics for January were Justice League, Batman, Action Comics, Detective Comics (WHY!?!?!), Green Lantern, Batman The Dark Knight, Superman, Flash, Batman and Robin, and Aquaman.

PTB: It’s crazy that all four Batman books are in the top ten with how much they vary in quality. How well are the Wildstorm characters and their books doing? I was really surprised that they were given their own titles.

KevinMLD: They are by no means setting the sales charts on fire, but they survived the first wave of cancellations. They’ve tried to integrate Wildstorm characters all over the place though. I’ve seen an image of Superman fighting a Wildstorm villain. In addition, a member of Gen 13 was a cast member in Superboy. The only former Wildstorm title I’ve really followed is Stormwatch and I haven’t loved it.

PTB: Stormwatch seemed like it was going to be the book to watch for how the New 52 would interact based on what I had read. Did that end up being the case?

KevinMLD: The few issues I read were focused on the formation of the current team including the recruitment of Apollo and Midnighter. It didn’t particularly involve the rest of the New 52 universe.

PTB: Which book came out as a surprise favorite?

KevinMLD: The biggest surprise to me has been I, Vampire. I had never even heard of the title or the character before, but its been intense and compelling. The best titles out of the relaunch have unquestionably been I, Vampire, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and Batman.

Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s BATMAN

PTB: Speaking of Batman, let’s talk a bit more about that since its one of the few books I’ve been reading and we haven’t spotlighted is since the last “fifth week” hit. Batman has been incredibly fun so far and I’m really glad I gave it a chance.

KevinMLD: Well, this is a series I called a “no brainer” and predicted would be the best book in the relaunch when it was announced, but I still think it has beat my expectations. I did not expect the Court of Owls to be so well conceived.

PTB: It’s almost like they could’ve written this book without the New 52 branding as nothing really seems to be hinging on this change and continuity.

KevinMLD: The main changes to continuity for this book were that Bruce was back in Gotham seemingly full-time and that Dick Grayson is no longer Batman. Plus, all of the Robins have apparently been de-aged slightly and their terms of service in that role shortened. I suspect over time as tight continuity becomes less of a focus that last element will be ignored.

PTB: Snyder and Capullo make for a great creative team, but this is one of those books where even with a change of artist I know I’ll still be on board.

KevinMLD: I think that’s clearly a tribute to Scott Snyder’s talent. You should check out his Black Mirror work with Dick Grayson as Batman from his Detective run. But Greg Capullo has far exceeded my expectations. His Talon is fantastic. I’m really happy to have him on this book and hope they can put together a long run on Batman. If you read interviews from early on during the New 52, it seemed like Snyder and Capullo didn’t really know what to make of one another. It made me nervous. But now they talk like they’re psyched to be working together. Every month I can’t wait to see what comes next.

PTB: The introduction of the print/download combo pack on more titles (including Batman) was interesting. It is essentially a variant and I could imagine people keeping it bagged after what we saw with the polybags of the 1990s.

KevinMLD: That certainly seems to be the way some people are viewing them.

PTB: After getting the Justice League combo packs, I can say that they look great digitally. I’m glad I read the print version of Batman #5 with the upside down pages though. It created such a sense of confusion that fit perfectly with the storytelling. There’s no chance you’ll start reading the book backwards (adding even more confusion) reading the book digitally.

KevinMLD: I’d be really curious to see what Batman #5 looks like digitally. They could have done some really amazing things with the guided view if they had really wanted.

PTB: When retcons are done well I really do love them. The Court of Owls is kind of a big one. Snyder really had me doubting their story at times making them a convincing urban myth.

KevinMLD: One of the exciting elements of the upcoming Batman event is that there’s a Talon story in All Star Western, which should further ingrain the Court of Owls in Gotham’s history.

PTB: I’m know some jaded fans are going to wonder how in 70+ years of investigating Gotham, the world’s greatest detective never found these rooms and tunnels.

KevinMLD: Those jaded fans can go suffer through an issue of Detective or Batman the Dark Knight. Good luck with that.

Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis’ AQUAMAN

PTB: I’m surprised by just how much I’m enjoying Aquaman.

KevinMLD: I think everyone who is reading it feels similarly.

PTB: Issue six saw a slight change to the art that I’m not sure I really enjoyed even though it’s by no means bad. Ivan Reis is just a big selling point on this book for me and if he were not to continue as the regular artist I don’t know how much Johns’ story would really keep me on board.

KevinMLD: I’d need the art to be better than what we saw in issue 6 to keep me a regular reader, but overall Johns is my main reason for being there every month. However, I don’t think Reis is irreplaceable.

PTB: It’s really going to take two disappointing issues of Aquaman to get me to jump ship. The mysteries surrounding Atlantis are keeping me around.

KevinMLD: I just like spending ten minutes reading about Mera, Aquaman and their dog once a month. I kind of like that he’s been mostly taken out of the water for this title too. It’s been a generally fun book.

Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s JUSTICE LEAGUE

PTB: Justice League, which we’ve been discussing each month, is a similar case to Aquaman for me regarding its upcoming art change. Obviously it has a larger cast and broader appeal than Aquaman alone, but I think Jim Lee being off for the next two issues is going to really test my commitment to this title.

KevinMLD: These issues will really represent our first glimpses of the current day Justice League. I’m not sure how you can resist that.

PTB: I know you’ve mentioned Lee will be back, but there’s always a question of how long he will be involved with the title.

KevinMLD: Are you saying you would drop the book because he might leave the title at some point in the future? I can guarantee he will be leaving Justice League eventually. So will Johns. So will every creator on every title.

PTB: I’m questioning whether he will really only be gone for two issues here and whether he’ll come back for another complete arc. I also don’t know if I want the story to jump to the present day DC New 52 universe or stay five years in the past the way it has started. Honestly, I think keeping things in the past has a much greater appeal for me. Not having to worry about the status quo the rest of the DC universe is a big advantage.

KevinMLD: I don’t really understand this at all. Especially with the New 52. Everyone is equally in the dark about these characters and their relationships. It’s the perfect time to follow their modern adventures. On the other hand, I’m more worried about whether this will turn into an entertaining series. Currently, I feel like it just has no heart.

PTB: After a significant appearance in a backup story in Justice League #6, what’s going on with Pandora sightings? Is she still appearing frequently across the publishing line? Is there an event looming on the horizon?

KevinMLD: As far as I know she hadn’t appeared since all of the issue #1s. Her appearance in last week’s Justice League #6 was news to me when that book shipped as I thought her next major appearance was supposed to be in DC’s Free Comic Book Day release. We have heard that her story would take place in the pages of Justice League, however, which I think means it won’t be part of a line-wide event. Overall, I’m just not really that interested in her fate, however, unless it’s going to end up creating a revitalized, interesting and viable Vertigo. I miss when Vertigo was still relevant.

PTB: I’m not sure that whatever Pandora’s involved in will be limited to Vertigo as she seems to be an important figure across all aspects of the DC line. I’m not reading the vast majority of those series, but you’ve been keeping tabs on a lot of them.

An overview of the first six months of the New 52

KevinMLD: As far as I’m concerned the strongest titles DC is putting out right now are:

  • Animal Man, Swamp Thing – These series are almost telling a single story the way the battle against the Rot has evolved.
  • I, Vampire – A vampire insurrection in the DC Universe? I’m in.
  • Wonder Woman – While I wouldn’t consider it to be the horror story we were promised, I’ve really enjoyed both the art and the story so far.
  • Batman and Robin – This title has slowly grown on me from being an afterthought to one of my top ten comics every month.
  • Batwoman – The art is better than the writing, but the writing is the best of any of the titles DC has handed over to an artist.
  • Green Lantern – The Hal Jordan/Sinestro buddy cop routine is pretty fun.
  • Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. – Not quite as great as I want it to be, but still clever.
  • Batman – This book is just amazing month in and out.
  • All Star Western – This book is basically a continuation of Jonah Hex’s title that has so far been set in Gotham City in the late 19th Century. It’s a pretty strong series.

Books I read but I don’t think are great… yet:

  • Justice League – I love the way it looks but I have real issues with Green Lantern being so irresponsible, Cyborg being embraced as a member of the team five minutes after he gets his powers and the fact that it just lacks heart. It sure is pretty though.
  • Action Comics – So far this title has been hit or miss. When it hits though, it hits hard.
  • Nightwing – I’m a huge Nightwing fan, but this book has room for improvement. Though it is better than some of the other books in this group.
  • Birds of Prey – There’s nothing particularly special about this series. I’m not sure why I’ve been keeping up with it besides I’ve been a BOP fan for years.
  • Batgirl – So far Barbara Gordon was better as Oracle.
  • Green Lantern Corps – Another book that just doesn’t seem special yet.
  • New Guardians – Needs more Larfleeze. I’m interested to see how the current story will end though.
  • Red Lanterns – I’ve fallen behind on this title. Too much Atrocitus talking to himself.
  • Demon Knights, Resurrection Man – These books feature neat concepts and are generally well executed titles, but I’m not 100 percent invested in them yet.
  • Men of War – I’m not usually a fan or war movies or comics but this one grabbed my attention a bit. Too bad the writer quit and it’s been “cancelled.”

Books I sampled and didn’t hate but didn’t keep up with either:

  • Superboy – I thought the first issue was a huge surprise in terms of the level of quality and haven’t really liked an issue since. I officially want the old Superboy back. Teen Titans has been equally disappointing. We’ve been given no reason to like any of these characters including Tim Drake.
  • Justice League International – The book just seemed a little bland though I liked the team of characters they put together. I think I couldn’t get past that they had thrown out the entire history of the JLI prior to the New 52.
  • DC Universe Presents – I enjoyed the Deadman story more than I expected to, but I’m skipping the follow up written by Dan Didio.
  • Superman – It just felt stale. Like it came from another era.
  • Batman the Dark Knight – This started terrible but has gotten slightly better. I still wouldn’t recommend it for anything but the art. Maybe when the new writer takes over it’ll get better.
  • Justice League Dark – Just never grabbed me, but I’ll be giving it another chance when Jeff Lemire takes over as writer.
  • Stormwatch, Deathstroke – I wanted to love both of these series, but just didn’t. Both are getting new writers shortly though.

Books I couldn’t stand and/or didn’t read:

  • Detective Comics – I can’t believe how many people are buying this series all based on one strong splash page at the end of issue 1. This is not a well written comic and it’s a waste of Tony Daniel’s skills as a penciller.
  • The Flash – I skipped this very popular title out of principle. I’m not going to support DC handing over the writing of major titles over to artists anymore. People seem to love this book though. For me it has been the victim of Tony Daniel’s lack of success on Batman and Detective Comics.
  • Blue Beetle, Legion Lost, Legion of Superheroes, Blackhawks, Grifter, Voodoo, O.M.A.C., Batwing, Supergirl, Savage Hawkman, Mr. Terrific, Captain Atom – I skipped them all. There’s only so much time in the day and/or punishment one person can take.
  • Static Shock, Suicide Squad, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Catwoman, Green Arrow, Fury of Firestorm – Tried issue 1 and really disliked the writing.

Read more about DC Comics’ “New 52″ on MyLatestDistraction.

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  • Dorton said,

    You’re missing out on Captain Atom really underrated comic

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