Talkin’ New 52 Blues
At the moment, I’m buying very few current titles on a monthly basis, and none of them are from DC Comics. A year ago, I wasn’t buying any current titles at all. What brought me back to monthly buying? DC Comics. Yes, the New 52 got me back into new comics (my love of and obsession with old comics is a constant), and yet I’ve since abandoned the entire line. So what happened?
DC had been my favorite since I was a kid, but I had become increasingly disenchanted with their stories since somewhere around Identity Crisis. I bought that Countdown to Infinite Crisis book, in which one of my all time favorite heroes, the Blue Beetle, gets treated like crap by everyone in the DCU, and then shot in the head by an old friend. By the time that dog started eating people in Teen Titans, I was officially done. Being fed up with DC, and dealing with non-comics-related issues in my life, it was easy to give up monthly comics entirely.
When I heard about the DC reboot, I immediately got excited. It just seemed to make sense- they’re moving away from all the crap they’ve done in the past few years, I thought, and getting back to basics. They’re going to make accessible comics for people who love their characters and don’t want to be bogged down with aftermath from infinite crossovers. I felt like, this is aimed right at me. Heh.
(And yes, the costume redesigns were mostly terrible, but I was willing to look past it.)
I also had an iPad by this time, so I was excited to be able to check these books out without even venturing into a comic book store (nothing against comic stores in general, but the good ones are few and far between, and I like shopping from the couch anyway). So when September came, I bought a bunch of titles. Some of them I gave up after one issue- Batgirl was bad and Firestorm was terrible, both of which were a shame since I’d loved Gail Simone in the past. Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws made me angry for reasons that others have explained at length. Justice League was absolutely terrible, but I knew that going in (I’ve had a grudge against Geoff Johns for ages); I just couldn’t resist the excitement of the first issue. The titles that I stuck with (for a while) I’ll discuss individually:
- Action Comics was one of the books I was most excited about, because Grant Morrison did such a great job with All-Star Superman. This just has none of that magic, though. It seems too infested with the unnecessary darkness of the 21st Century DCU, and Rags Morales’ art just… isn’t my thing. Maybe it would be better if it was drawn by Frank Quitely. Wait, I mean it would definitely be better- maybe it would be worth reading.
- Supergirl seemed to have potential, despite the terrible costume, but it just took forever for something to happen. The first four issues didn’t even manage to cover what a good first issue should do. Supergirl still hadn’t even learned to speak English, let alone had a conversation with anybody! My patience is limited.
- Animal Man and Swamp Thing were well written and nice to look at (particularly Animal Man on both counts), but I could never get Grant Morrison and Alan Moore out of my head, and consequently couldn’t stop thinking “I’ve read this before, but it was way better.”
- Justice League Dark, on the other hand, had me thinking, “Wait, wasn’t Peter Milligan my favorite writer like 15 years ago? Is this even the same guy?” The decompression got to me here too. I kept waiting for the team to actually be a team, and it kept not happening.
- Frankenstein was a lot of fun, but it felt too much like it wanted to be Hellboy, and I couldn’t really bring myself to care about any of the characters (which is a shame, because in many other contexts I’ve cared about Frankenstein’s monster probably more than any woman should).
- OMAC's first issue blew me away with its unapologetic Kirbyness and accompanying sense of fun. I got tired of it after about three issues, though. Keith Giffen is still awesome (I'll keep my mouth shut about his co-writer for now), but at the end of the day, if I want a Kirby homage, I want Tom Scioli to draw it.
- Wonder Woman was really exciting at first, but looking back I was always a bit wary. It was great to see a talented writer putting effort into making Wonder Woman a great book, and Cliff Chiang’s art is always phenomenal. I wanted Diana to have a little more personality, though. Also, I was extremely annoyed by the introduction of Lennox, yet another working class British mystery man who knows more about everything than the protagonist. Then issue #7 came out, with its revelation that the Amazons of the new DCU are nasty horrible people. This has been written about quite a bit, so I’ll just add that I agree with those who’ve said that this change violates the entire spirit of Wonder Woman. Basically, that was the last straw. Added to DC’s ongoing woman problems, the excessive grimdarkness of everything, and my reservations about Before Watchmen, Wonder Woman #7 made me want to drop DC entirely. So then I started thinking about the few titles I was still reading…
- Birds of Prey was good, but never great. Starling is cool, but I kinda hate the new Katana, and looking at Black Canary just makes me annoyed that she’s been written out of the history of the Justice League (and who’s her mother now?). And even with Batgirl there, it’s not the same without Oracle. So I was more than okay with saying goodbye.
- Batman does come pretty close to great. The art is excellent, and Scott Snyder is a fantastic writer. It never really grabbed me on a gut level, though, and once I found out it was headed for a crossover, I felt like the whole Owl storyline might go on and on forever (worse, it might make me buy Detective Comics or Catwoman to keep up with what’s going on).
- Batwoman is famously gorgeous to look at, but not always fun to read on an iPad. Also, the absence of Greg Rucka is glaring when you compare it to what’s come before. And it really annoyed me when they stabbed Flamebird into a coma. As great as it’s been to watch a queer female character headline a mainstream superhero book, I wasn’t attached enough to overcome my Wonder Woman reaction.
- The Flash is also beautiful to behold, and the writing’s pretty good, but Barry Allen has never been my Flash, and I’ve always had a hard time caring about any story involving him.
- Demon Knights was the hardest to give up- it really is pretty great. But it was also another decompressed book in which issue after issue seemed to be leading up to a battle that kept not happening, and Vandal Savage’s heel turn made him way less interesting than he’d been as a (semi-) good guy. This is definitely the book I’d be most likely to decide to catch up with later, or buy as a collection, but I can do without it on a monthly basis.
So there you go, no more DC. If my judgements seem overly harsh, keep in mind that I was paying way more for each of these comics than an immaterial 20-page digital file should ever cost. Over the past few months, though, I found a few other titles from other publishers that interested me, so giving up DC didn’t mean giving up monthly comics (but more on those later).
Good job, DC Comics! You got me buying new comics again. Just not yours.