DC Comics New 52: One Year Later, 21 Opinions

It’s been over a year since DC Comics’ ambitious New 52 relaunch. Like many others I sampled a bit of everything and made my pull list. I took a few safe bets and a few risks and spent a year seeing how those bets played out. Now before DC launches their third wave of new titles, I’m going to type out my feelings on every one I stuck with.


Action Comics

Grant Morrison plays a radically different game for the ongoing format than the super-scaled storytelling that was All-Star Superman, but still retains the G.Mo charm as he introduces a plethora of new characters who fit the Superman format so well they might  have been around forever.

All the characters are the same, the powers are the same, and the outfit isn’t different enough to throw a fuss over. Right in the middle of the opening story, there’s a two-issue filler story with some confusing Time Travel. That’s dangerous storytelling from a book with teeth. Apparently Morrison’s run ends at issue 16, which for him, is enough. Morrison 101: He tosses the audience right into the story and starts having fun fast as he can, and doesn’t worry about whiplash.


Static Shock

Reports that the actual writer (John Rozum) lost creative control of this book line up with how this book never really getting its footing by digging into what we all know the draw is: Title character Virgil Hawkins.

This book should have been better, lasted longer, and as soon as it was cancelled, “Hardware” or some other Milestone title should have been set up. Hopefully Static will soon show up in another book like Teen Titans or Red Hood & the Outlaws.


Stormwatch

This was supposed to be the big title, the surprising presence in the new line-up that could change everything. Instead it’s been kind of weak. As much as I know the characters are cool from various guest appearances (pre-52) I’m not specifically familiar with most of them.

A few bad colouring and inking techniques leave Sepulveda’s artwork lacking a widescreen quality and also Midnighter’s chin-spike looks dumb. I suspect this book wasn’t planned to succeed,  just to hold onto the characters until they can be set-up to assume the title of either Planetary or The Authority and be the team we know they should be.

Maybe I should have been reading Paul Cornell’s (closely related) Demon Knights instead.


Swamp Thing

This is a gorgeous book, no doubt. Every page is full of flora, fauna and all kinds of vibrant texture given a simple but gripping and ornate narrative. When the New52 titles launched and I sampled all of them, I sensed that this book was treading on such similar ground as Animal Man so I picked the one with the better art. Now I’m getting them both in an unsurprising crossover “Rotworld”.

Scott Snyder has pushed the artist, Toronto convention regular Yanick Paquette, to the limit. But it hasn’t yet gone into the mind-enhanced territory of Moore’s run. I’m willing to give it time to blossom.


Batman & Robin

With several other titles focusing primarily on Batman, this book is really closer to being “Robin & Batman.” which is a pretty sound concept. Damian Wayne is a homicidal, jerky, smug and outright entertaining little brat, like DC’s Kid Loki. To match the distinct concept of this Bat-book, there is the equally distinct artwork of Patrick Gealson who is a radical dude.

But it isn’t Batman, so I get the feeling for most of it’s duration it will tie into other book’s events rather than lead the way. Perhaps that’s for the best since Gleason’s art isn’t for everybody and Damian’s impudence is annoying.


Batwoman

Straight-up, the art is marvellous, detailed, atmospheric and gorgeous. Also occasionally hard to follow. But she’s a cool character with strong convictions and varied relationships with her supporting cast.


Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.

It’s a big beefy brutal guy kicking cryptic butt, which is always a good  formula for a book. The twist on the situation is the quasi-gothic theme, but that just makes it feel like Hellboy. And if I wanted Hellboy, I’d read Atomic Robo.

On its own, it’s a solid action book that mixes gothic and surreal. I understand this book is cancelled (after some tie-ins to the Rotworld Crossover between Swamp Thing and Animal Man) and Frankenstein is apparently being moved to the magically-oriented Justice League Dark which works perfectly. Hopefully Frank will have more interesting interactions with JLD than his current supporting cast.


Green Lantern

Geoff Johns on Green Lantern is more often than not a solid read. This is not a surprise after around 80 issues of him on the title before the reboot. Although for 11 issues of the new run it feels like it’s been exploring plot elements it’s previously set up instead of doing anything new, which isn’t exceptionally interesting.

Sinestro hanging around should have helped make this book interesting, but that’s not working since nobody expects him to remain good for more than a few years before going back to being evil.

Thankfully, the current crossover has kicked up the book’s quality.


Mr. Terrific

If any Justice Society character was cool enough to have their own ongoing, it would have to be Mr. Terrific. But right off the bat this series made the fatal flaw of taking away his really cool jacket. The writing was pretty sound and it quickly worked to establish a supporting cast, but the art team never came together. So I’m not missing this series. Thankfully, the main character has been folded into the new Earth-2 series


Earth-2

The story of a whole universe, told in a single book. That’s pretty cool, and Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are all apparently no longer around, so the B-listers get to shine. I consider this book interesting and exciting. Jim Robinson is mostly back in form. The dialogue is still lacking natural flow, but it isn’t the confusing mess of screaming that was Jim Robinson’s terrible “Cry For Justice” series.


World’s Finest

The sister title to Earth-2 featuring Huntress and Powergirl alternates between flash-back portions of story of the girls stuck in a world they didn’t create (with juicy Kevin McGuire artwork) and present-day settings (with juicy artwork by George Pérez). Alternating between the two periods is occasionally confusing and  slows down the story, but it’s a solid book that gets direction from the ladies wanting to return home. Like Supergirl, seeing the girls save the day is fun but I’m waiting for the rest of the universe to be ready to really interact with them.


Red Lanterns

Ed Benes’ art is loud and brutal enough to just keep me awake through Peter Milligan’s dull writing. This title slowly plods through piles of blood and feels like it was just murdering as much time as possible waiting for the main Green Lantern book to launch the current crossover event. It feels like 3 issues were spent turning the supporting cast from dimwitted piles of rage into more verbal piles of rage who talk more but act the same. I have my fingers crossed that afterwards there will be a writer change, but I doubt it as this book has strong sales due to proximity to the other Green Lantern titles.


Suicide Squad

Plot twist, betrayals, violence. And Amanda Waller using the concept of “Need to know” information to frustrate her own team more often then not (making me actually question her skills as a team coach). Half the fun is reading everything she says in Lynne Thigpen’s voice. But if you’re reading this book just for Harley Quinn or because you miss Secret Six, it might not be your taste. If you’re reading the book because you want a team of villains doing clandestine wetwork, congratulations. Although I’m not into this book enough to start regularly reading the “Team 7″ prequel series.


Batman

Scott Snyder made this a solid read, validating DC’s faith to put him on such a flagship title after his success with miniseries like “Gates of Gotham”. Night Of The Owls was the new 52′s first Big Event although a few of the tie-ins were a bit repetitive and some concepts were a bit rehashed from the recent Batman: RIP. If you like Batman (and who doesn’t?) this book is everything Batman is supposed to be with big action, mystery and vengeance, but never getting too dark.


Green Lantern Corps

This book is a huge blur in my head, a mix of the Guardians being jerks and Guy Gardner telling them they’re jerks. At least it also deals with the Alpha-Lanterns, the cool cyborg Internal Affairs officers whom Geoff Johns introduced after Sinestro Corps and then completely forgot about.

The Guardians going fascist was a logical progression of their characters, but just 5 years ago they were cool dudes who personally helped fight the Anti-Monitor and loved Kyle. For a species billions of years old that’s a rather quick moral change. It’s expected they’ll be out of the picture soon and I imagine the universe might actually be more interesting without them in it.

As he will tell you every chance he gets, Guy Gardner is the man.


Red Hood & The Outlaws.

Despite the first issue causing considerable rage on the Tumblers, Red Hood quickly became a fun Wednesday highlight. Jason is desperate to prove to Batman that he doesn’t need to prove anything to Batman, Roy is having fun being suicidal and Kory is hoping her hot body is distracting everybody from asking exactly how much emotional baggage Dick Grayson left her with (lots!). This book mixes vibrant action and design with fascinating personal conviction. The plot quickly anchors the trio with a mission, and the protagonists are then distracted from that by drawn into war with space babes. It might not last until 30 issues, but right now, it’s cool.


Supergirl

Killing time with her own Lex Luthor and Banshee until the rest of the universe is ready for her (which will be signified with an upcoming crossover with Superman and Superboy). The art is solid, the design is cute, and the whole thing is a lot more cohesive and earlier to digest than it was before the reboot. I think this book needs confidence in how much of a solid fixture it is and needs to start having more fun. A solid purpose.


Wonder Woman

Prior to the relaunch, Brian Azzarello described the upcoming book as “horror,” and despite the main character having super strength and an artist more popular for cute stuff, he managed to pull it off with an atmosphere of hate and dread caused by the deviant Greek pantheon.

A highlight of the relaunch, this book may be the best Wonder Woman since Rucka’s run. It’s a standard set-up, Wonder Woman is set to protect the girl who will give birth to the heir of Olympus. I still don’t entirely care about Wonder Woman as a character, but now I know she’s bad-ass instead of just hearing about it. So this creative team is something to be cherished.


Flash

Everything about this book is delicious and if you aren’t picking it up because it’s Barry instead of Wally then you are a bad person.


New Guardians

Of the four Lantern titles, this is easily the most interesting for being something new. A diverse set of (literally) colourful characters who all have grudges against each other and a plot that deals with the ongoing problem of Larfleeze. He’s both the wacky scamp we love but also hugely evil.

In space, colourist Nei Rufino is able to overdo the shine and vibrancy to her heart’s content, but this book sometimes need some varied tone, like the icy cool of Geoff John’s Green Lantern title or the weight of the Wonder Woman title.


Voodoo

It started with a nice concept, an X-Files/Fugitive kind of set-up with some super-heroic muscle thrown in. Sadly a writer change caused such a huge shift in direction for the book. Some characters were killed off to make room for leftover characters from the cancelled Blackhawks title. It was a rough, inorganic transition and honestly I’m not going to be missing Voodoo too much.

If Priscilla and Grifter get anymore company, what do you think are the odds of a Wildcats book happening?

Final Score: 73 Tdots out of a potential 105.

So was it worth it? I can’t say, and a lot of people will be eager to disagree with me on many of my opinions and feelings so your mileage may vary. But forgetting what could have been, I feel that DC is doing a pretty prudent job of cutting off titles I’m willing to let go of and replacing them with more interesting ones.

But seriously dudes, where’s The Question?

Action Comics 4 World’s Finest 4
Static Shock 2 Red Lantern 2
Stormwatch 2 Suicide Squad 3
Swampthing 5 Batman 5
Batman & Robin 4 Green Lantern Corps. 3
Batwoman 4 Red Hood & The Outlaws 5
Frankenstein 3 Supergirl 2
Green Lantern 4 Wonder Woman 5
Mr. Terrific 2 Flash 5
Earth-2 4 GL: New Guardians 4
Voodoo 1

-Michael Ryan.

I read a lot of comics.

Related posts:

DC to relaunch EVERYTHING. Fanboy to be WORRIED.
Mid-summer Film Follow-up.
An original origin for Batman
Life in the Sewers: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles