DC’s latest revamp is coming, so we look back at the first four weeks of the New 52 — and what’s happened since.
Way back in the dark ages before the arrival of 13th Dimension, I would email friends about comics and we’d gas back and forth. When DC launched the New 52, I took it upon myself to read each #1 and write mini-reviews of them all.
As it turns out, I saved what was essentially a protoblog. So now that DC‘s announced their latest linewide shakeup, I thought it might be fun to revisit those mini-reviews of every first issue of the New 52 — and look back to see what changed over time. (If you missed it, here’s the Week 1 round-up. And here’s Week 2.)
Here are the reviews, more or less as I wrote them. (I edited some for clarity, some for tone and some for length. The opinions are unchanged.) I also gave each book a Green, Yellow or Red light. I don’t know why I picked that metaphor.
Anyway, below each review I’ll comment in italics on how I see those books now — if they even exist. And feel free to let me know your thoughts!
NEW 52 — WEEK 3
Batman: I’m actually going to keep this one kind of brief. Yes, this was my favorite book of the week. It wasn’t perfect but it was top-notch. First, the art was fantastic. I loved it. Something about Greg Capullo reminds me a little of Marshall Rogers. It’s the cape. But the big thing was the story, which was granite solid. Great voice, great interplay between the characters, great first chapter. Nit pick 1: Damian wouldn’t wear Chucks with a suit. Nit pick 2: How did Batman know so quickly it was the dead guy who left the hidden warning? Couldn’t it have been the killer? Someone else? Maybe this is actually a plot point. I’m not sure. Didn’t ring right with me. Nevertheless, the book is off to a tremendous start and feels like the beginning of something big. Green light, because if it weren’t I might as well hang up my cowl right here.
Yeah, I don’t have to point out what a monster this book became. An industry juggernaut. Hey, I pointed it out after all.
Birds of Prey: As I read this I found myself enjoying it and then 90 seconds after I was done I kind of felt like I didn’t need to go back. I want to like this book but there was something about it that was a little bloodless and I can’t quite put my finger on it. It was competently told and Jesus Saiz draws nice pictures but … I dunno. The book just isn’t calling my name, so I guess I give it a red? A yellow? A yellow, I guess. I really can’t decide. Batgirl‘s visiting (joining?) in No. 4, so I think it’ll stay yellow for now.
I didn’t last on this book. It just never found its footing with me. I wasn’t alone, I guess. I really like the new take on Batgirl — and it seems Black Canary is getting that similar sprucing up. I kind of like them as frenemies, as they’re being portrayed right now.
Blue Beetle: This is where the New 52 breaks down. Characters like Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle already face an uphill battle finding an audience, as we’ve seen already — so if you’re going to launch a book like this, you need an A-list creator on it. If you’re not going to get Grant Morrison on Blue Beetle, maybe it’s worth reaching deeper into the talent pool to find an up-and-comer who can make a book like this sizzle? I mean, it was OK. It wasn’t terrible or anything. It just didn’t rock and DC should be making books like this rock if they want them to stick. And what’s the point of redoing Jaime‘s origin when he’s so new? Unh. Poor direction from the top here. Red light.
Captain Atom: This book won’t last so I’m not gonna spend too much time on it. I can’t get too worked up about Dr. Manhattan, I mean, Captain Atom, since this book will be gone by my birthday. Red light.
I was wrong. It lasted longer. But not long.
Catwoman/Red Hood and the Outlaws: I’m not gonna bother to review these separately because there’s too much overlap given how the Internet exploded this week over all the zex und zex und zex und ZEX!!! It’s almost impossible to write something that doesn’t reflect all the discourse about feminine objectification, sexism, just plain sex, fanfic, fantasy, and so on. And I pretty much agree with all the criticism. So I’m just gonna roll with it and ask this very basic question: Were these books entertaining? And the answer is yes, yes they were. Red Hood was sophomoric and over-the-top but actually pretty funny. Catwoman was a lot of fun though I would have preferred that Batman wasn’t so quick to the finish line. I mean, jeez, dude. So will I pick them up again? Red Hood gets a red light because the one thing the book didn’t do was give me a great reason to support Jason Todd‘s continued existence in the DCU. And I would really like to see him go away. Catwoman? Green. Why not.
Yeah, I can’t really read a Jason Todd book and there’s nothing I’ve heard about this title that would make me want to read this one. It’s being revamped, sort of. I’m still not reading it. And Catwoman? I’ve been on and off. Right now, I’m on. But I may very well go off again.
DC Universe Presents: Oh, Boston Brand, you talk too much. DC really has to move away from so many of these internal monologues. It’s a really cheap device when so many books do it. And in this case, it was particularly egregious because, well, here: “That one decision had set the poor guy on a predetermined path — one that led across vast, unjumpable chasms strapped around pieces of machinery powered by far too few horses.” Also, the book appears to me to rewrite his raison d’etre. Why change his origin from his quest to find his assassin? They could have simply stated that he found his killer but that Rama put him on a new path. Isn’t that what they did before? The change seems unnecessary. I dunno, whatever. The one thing I did like was the scene where he jumped from body to body to talk to his old friend. I can see that in the new Deadman TV show, assuming it makes it to air. I’ve had a soft spot for Deadman for some time but this just wasn’t very good. Since it’s an anthology series it’ll be easy to jump off, so I’ll give this book one more issue to get it right because I’d like it to work. Yellow but that light is changing fast.
I’m still confused by the New 52 Deadman. Can people see him? Or not? I don’t suppose I care enough to really find out. I wanted this book to work because I do think there’s room in the world for a Showcase kind of book, but I guess I’m in the minority on that score. Oh, well. Oh, and I don’t even remember the talk about a TV show.
Green Lantern Corps: This was good. And I’m not gonna pick it up again because I’m just not a GLC guy, no pun intended. Solid story, solid characterization, solid art. It’s just not my thing. Red light, but it’s about me, not them.
Yeah, that about sums it up.
Legion of Super-Heroes: I still can’t get into the Legion. Red light. I’m sorry. I am.
Nightwing: Not much to report here. Straightforward book, with requisite status quo reset. Kyle Higgins writes a solid Dick Grayson and I liked Eddy Barrows‘ art, though I’m not sure how long he’s going to be on the book. Green.
Stayed on it and stuck around for Grayson. Ultimately, I think the Nightwing run was kinda uneven, but I’m digging Grayson a lot — more than I expected to.
Supergirl: I came to the conclusion recently that when I really think about it, I’m not a big fan of Superman comics and this goes all the way back to childhood. I LOVED the first two Christopher Reeve movies but any time I tried the comic, I was left cold. The stories were dull and I didn’t like Curt Swan‘s art. The only time I really loved Superman comics was the John Byrne reboot of the mid-’80s, which is unsurprising given how much it shared the Richard Donner DNA. Since I got back into comics full time, as it were, in 2006, I’ve tried really hard to like Superman but with the very notable exception of Geoff Johns‘ too-short run on Action, I just haven’t enjoyed the mainstream Superman books.
Which brings me to Supergirl. I’ve never loved the Supergirl idea, just as I’ve never loved the Superboy idea (Clark or Conner). Anybody else with the outfit just takes away from what makes Superman so special. (I’m not happy with Batbloat either, but that’s kind of different and I won’t get into it here.) Now, I know Supergirl will always be around. She’s an excellent marketing tool — complete with her own line of girls’ clothes and accessories — and she’s an established part of greater popular culture. Everyone knows who she is. But unlike Batgirl, Supergirl always seemed like a conceit. But she’s here and I have to accept that. Now does that mean I need to read her comic book? No, of course not.
But what if her comic is actually pretty good? And this one was. Again, we have the dreaded inner monologue, but here it works because the panels act as modern-day thought bubbles: This is how she’d react in real time. The book is basically one giant action scene but it’s solid and we get a decent idea of her personality. And the art was fine. All that said here’s the problem: Since the true Kara Zor-El was brought back to the DCU in 2004, her through line has basically been a seven-year origin story: Who is she, how will she fit in, etc. She was just starting to get settled in when here comes the New 52 and… we’re back to the beginning again!
So, will I stick with the book as it covers such exceedingly well-trod ground? Probably for the first arc, if for no other reason that it will be giving us a lot of info about the New 52‘s Krypton and all that. I don’t like reading comics as information dumps but this may be a case where I’ll give in for awhile. After that, it depends. So, solid yellow. But a quick note: Bad costume. What’s with the oddball, knee-exposing leggings? And that collar! She looks like a reject from Battle of the Planets or Star Blazers! Man, I loved those shows.
Boy that was long-winded. I don’t remember how many of the issues I picked up but it may have only been the one, other than the zero issue. I’ll watch the show. I can get into a show.
Wonder Woman: I cannot get over how gorgeous this book is. It’s certainly the prettiest one of the New 52, at least so far. I read this on the iPad because I’ve already decided that’s how I’m gonna buy this one. The color and lighting, combined with Cliff Chiang‘s elegant-yet-cartoony style, pop in such a way that it feels like you’re looking at animation cells. Noir master Brian Azzarello is not a writer I would have picked off the top of my head for Wonder Woman but I like where this story is going and I like its tone. It’s fairly basic yet obviously we’re starting something that will be pretty wide in scope. Fitting when your story is about gods and goddesses. As an aside, I feel compelled to point out that the Catwoman/Red Hood brouhaha is stealing some of this book’s thunder. I mean, it really is a triumph, particularly in the always-present context of Wonder Woman‘s gender politics. Green light, without question. I’ve never been this excited for a Wonder Woman comic.
I’ve felt guilty at times that I didn’t stay with it. I’m even more of a Cliff Chiang fan now than I was when I wrote this. But I just lost interest in the story. I stuck for awhile but eventually, I left. Still feel bad.