DC RELAUNCH: Revisiting the New 52 six months later

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It’s been six months since DC shook the comic industry and gave it a much needed boost.  Six months and six issues later, and we’ve seen (or nearly seen) the completion of the first story arcs.  While some of the titles have already been announced as being canceled, we thought it was time to take another look at the New 52 and see where we stand on each of the titles.

NOTE FROM THE BENEVOLENT ROBOT OVERLORD: Instead of making each member of the Major Spoilers staff write a review on each title, we’ve asked each of them to fill out a spreadsheet that shows what titles they are still reading, which ones they’ve dropped, waiting for the trade and so on.

GEORGE: Of course DC’s goal for the New 52 was for customers to buy more DC Comics, and at the very least, it worked on this reader. Before the relaunch, I had maybe three or four DC titles on my pull list, and right now the number must be double that. Sure, I’m not reading a huge percentage of DC books, and I am pretty close to dropping some titles on the cusp (like Batwing and Demon Knights), but I am definitely committed to more books from the New 52 than the old 52. I grew up reading Marvel, and so I have a greater fondness for characters from the House of Ideas, but the New 52 did get me to try out some titles I never would have otherwise.

My top three titles are “Batman,” “Swamp Thing,” and “Animal Man.” I didn’t pay much attention to Scott Snyder before the relaunch, and clearly I should have (it also doesn’t hurt he’s been paired with two wonderful artists). I love the shared storyline being crafted in the latter two titles, and the art on both is horrific in all the right ways. The biggest casualties from the New 52 relaunch have to be “Batman, Inc.” and Gail Simone’s superb “Secret Six,” but at least the former is returning in some fashion. I still dig the misunderstood and underrated “Suicide Squad,” even if it does not reach the heady heights of its predecessor. I am also loving the direction Brian Azzarello is taking Wonder Woman. The character has had precious few great storylines, but we’re in the middle of one now.

What has disappointed me the most is the lack of quality in the war comics. I was cautiously optimistic in my early reviews of “Men of War” and “Blackhawks,” but quickly dropped them after it was clear that those titles just weren’t doing anything for me. War comics should be a viable genre, and I am hopeful that the replacement “GI Combat” will provide what I am looking for. Able writing duo Gray and Palmiotti from “All Star Western” (another New 52 book on my pull list that wasn’t before) will be handling the Unknown Soldier, and John Arcudi, who kills over on Dark Horse’s B.P.R.D. books, is writing the Haunted Tank. I also cannot overstate my excitement that one of my favorite novelists, China Miéville, will be writing the upcoming “Dial H for Hero.”

Bottom Line:  At the very least, DC attracted me to books I probably would not have looked at before the New 52. So I’ll call that a success, even if my wallet won’t.

George’s Checklist

JIMMY:  I’ve been very pleased with the DC Relaunch so far, with a few exceptions. My top titles from the New 52 are Demon Knights, Batwoman and The Flash, and I’ve been loving Scott Snyder’s work on Batman. Swamp Thing and Animal Man have been great as well, though I haven’t been enjoying the last couple issues of Swamp Thing as much as the first few–but I associate my enjoyment of Animal Man with Swamp Thing, so I’m still reading it.

There’ve been a couple titles that’ve disappointed me–Detective Comics has been absolutely awful, which is unfortunate considering it’s supposed to be DC’s eponymous flagship title. I’m not sure why they put Tony Daniel on the book, especially considering how poorly his writing has been on every other Bat-book he’s written, but DC isn’t always good at picking its writers (as we’ve seen with the addition of Rob Liefeld to half the books in the New 52). I also was disappointed with Deathstroke, not because of any flaws with the creative team but because I couldn’t get behind the direction they took with the book. Another let-down was Justice League International, with Jurgens jettisoning everything that made the original JLI a good book and instead making it a JL-lite book written for the preteen demographic.

The one book that I absolutely wanted to love and just couldn’t get into it was Batgirl–I loved Gail Simone’s work on Secret Six and Birds of Prey, and feel like she did a great job of making the Barbara Gordon character her own. Unfortunately with the de-aging of Babs she seems to have lost her sense of the character, and Gail just can’t identify with the 20 year old Batgirl anymore.

Bottom Line:  Overall the New 52 has been highly successful for me. I’m reading more comics now than I was before–and it’s not JUST DC titles; I’m reading more Boom! Image and Dynamite comics than ever before. This move by DC is having a snowball effect that is benefiting the entire industry.

Jimmy’s Checklist

MATTHEW:  I think the biggest problem that I had with the all-new all-different DCU was how little was actually different.  Much has been made of the decision to do a “soft” reboot on the successful Bat and Lantern franchises, but I actually support that.  I’m talking more about the fact that entire teams of characters made it through essentially unaltered, how many of the changes to the higher-profile characters were merely cosmetic, and how (with the exception of Martian Manhunter) we’re back to a “Big Seven” Justice League.

For any complaints on that score, though, DC did gamble quite a bit on this relaunch, and to their credit, the didn’t choose to play it entirely safe.  Not every book had what it took to be a long-term seller, but I’m quite certain that this was factored in at the beginning, and taking risks on properties like Mr. Terrific, O.M.A.C. and Voodoo was daring from an editorial standpoint.  Best of the relaunch in my eyes: Animal Man, I Vampire, Batwoman and Wonder Woman.  Matthew’s Least of the relaunch:  Hawk & Dove, Deathstroke, Flash and Grifter.

Bottom Line:  The streamlining of DC, Vertigo and Wildstorm worked better than I expected, though, and I kind of enjoy seeing Gen 13, Authority and WildCATS characters swanning about alongside Cyborg, Superboy and the Martian Manhunter.  For me, there’s still enough going on to keep me reading not-quite 30 of the books with some doubt as to the longevity of a couple.  Superman has left me cold, while Batwoman’s change in art has been quite jarring, and the move to present day in Action Comics makes me worried that the ennui I feel about the Superman title will carry over.  DC has cancelled three of the titles I follow (Static Shock, OMAC and Mister Terrific), but I’m provisionally intending to pick up four of the Second Wave books.  In short, I’m currently reading about half of the New 52, enjoying about 85% of that, and I’m pleased with DC’s handling of the revamp from both a reader and a retailer perspective.  The real question for me is how long it will take the legendary venom of comics readers to start seeing this Brave New World as the Same Ol’, Same Ol’ and cry for things to go back to the way they used to be.

Matthew’s Checklist

ROB:  I have been enjoying the The New 52.  Most of the titles that I”ve dropped was stuff that I checked out a few months in instead of on launch and may still continue to go that route, kind of a waiting for the trade without the trade being involved.  Only three titles got dropped from my pulls, Batman & Robin, Captain Atom, and Hawk & Dove.  The first one failed to hook me at all in issue one, was more of a retread of the last two years of Morrison.  The second drove me away with the art and got the axe because of a dull story.  The third I only picked up to do the review and knew I wouldn’t be getting anymore because it’s Leifeld.

As for the rest of what was picked up and dropped: the Legion titles, which will likely be obtained in trade, the two war/army titles were kinda dull, and DC Presents because it was picked up for the full Deadman arc.  I’m still picking up 30 titles a month and am enjoying them for the time being.

Bottom Line:   I’m happy with how the grand experiment has gone so far and am very much looking forward to the majority of it in the future.  I know some titles I like are going away and others are likely to be dropped due to the creative change, but that’s how the business goes.  I say let it continue and more good should come forth.

Rob’s Checklist

RODRIGO:  I feel bad, because even though I really like a lot of the ideas behind the new 52, I don’t have the budget to support it. I picked up Animal Man, Justice League and both Legion titles but have only sort of kept up with Animal man… sort of, because I’m like 9 issues behind… or two, maybe, how many issues have come out again? I’m bad at monthly comics.

Bottom Line:  I keep hearing good things about Demon Knights so I’ll probably wait for the trade. I might get Animal Man in the trade if I can’t find one of the issues I’m behind on. Was the New 52 successful? I think so, honestly it got me actually buying comics again, if only for a couple of months.

Rodrigo’s Checklist

STEPHEN:  There were a lot of books that had a great initial hook, but after the third issue, I had lost a lot of interest in a majority of the books.  Some of it had to do with the time factor in reading all the DC books in a single month, some had to do with finances, but for the most part, I simply lost interest in the characters and their new world.

I’m still reading all the Bat books in one form or another, but I’m so very close to dropping Detective Comics at this point, that the only thing that is keeping it around is the upcoming Court of Owls crossover.  Action Comics still entertains, and after Batman by Scott Snyder, it is my favorite series (well played Morrison, well played… )

Bottom Line: I’m reading about half of what was originally announced, and I’m okay with that.  I have a feeling going forward that more of the books that I am currently picking up in print form are going to make their way to a digital only format, as I’m still interested enough in the titles to read the ongoing adventures, but not committed enough to have them taking up space in the Nerd Room of Doom.

Stephen’s Checklist

ZACH:  DC’s “The New 52” was my first big hoo-ra-ra into the world of comics. If the company’s main goal was to grab new readers count me one of them. I didn’t grab every new title in September; some titles just didn’t interest me, while others I picked up on a whim and have become my favorite reads.

One such unexpected book for me was Teen Titans. I had no real desire to read this until I flipped it open on release day and saw the art, and believe it or not the story has continually been just as good. Even though I initially dropped Legion Lost (picking up the trade though) I’m looking forward to their crossover with Teen Titans coming up.

Bottom Line:   So here we are six months later and the world hasn’t exploded like some thought. I’m not reading everything I initially picked up, but I’m excited about everything I am. Glancing at the solicitations for the coming months the Court of Owls crossover and Green Lantern: New Guardians stories are high on my reading list. It is good time to be reading comics.

Zach’s Checklist

ROBOT OVERLORD:  There you are Dear Reader, our look back at what DC has done, and what we are reading going forward.  It’s a long list to read through, but we hope this answers the questions you have been asking us related to the current state of DC’s New 52.