COMIC REVIEW: DC’s New 52 Comics – Month 1: A Verdict

And so the furor is over, mostly, and it’s time for decisions to be made. I’ve given it a few weeks before posting this to allow my mind to settle so here are my thoughts on the relaunch so far. See if you agree with me.

Diversity

The essence of diversity is not simply to chuck a few foreigners and women at the equation and hope that placates people. It is to take diverse groups, represent them honestly and provide wider perceptions where there is a lack of balance. While DC should be applauded for placing a superhero in Africa ( and please don’t throw marvels Black Panther at me – I love him but how much time does he actually spend at home) I am very disappointed in the way that Africa has been portrayed as a country rather than a continent. It effectively removes all notions of intra continental diversity. What galls me is that this perception is one that has existed my entire life. Is it really that hard to get right after all this time. At least Blue Beetle brings a non standard cultural approach to it’s storytelling which is quite refreshing.

The next insult to diversity was to heal Barbara Gordon and make her Batgirl again. An incredibly powerful woman in a wheelchair and therefore a pretty unique character in most superhero universes has just been turned into yet another run of the mill superhero albeit it one with a wheelchair lift in her van.

While we are talking about women, Catwoman, Starfire in red Hood and the Outlaws and the sexification of Amanda Waller have disappointed and disgusted me greatly. Maybe in isolation the vapid sexuality of these characters wouldn’t offend me, but to fill a universe that suffers from my aforementioned lack of balance with this is an outrage. I’m not even going to mention Voodoo or the horrible characterisation of the women in Mr Terrific. At least Wonder Woman and Lois Lane have come out of this shining.

Happiness and a few Surprises

I was hoping for greatness from Justice League, JLI, Animal Man, wonder Woman, And I have to say that with addition of I Vampire, and the exception of JLI, these were the stand out titles for me. JL Dark wasn’t a stellar start but was chock full of potential

DC threw me a few curve balls with this relaunch. There were some comics I wasn’t expecting to wooed by that had me baying for more. Both Action Comics and Superman managed to hook me – and I’m not a Superman fan. The Flash, Blackhawks, Teen Titans, Resurrection Man, All Star Western and the Blue Beetle were very moreish. I thoroughly enjoyed Demon Knights, which was a lot of fun. But perhaps the biggest surprise by far and totally unexpected was how much I loved Aquaman. One of the best of the entire relaunch in my opinion.

Continuity

And it is here where I think DC has really dropped the ball. A couple of decades ago when DC had their first crisis, not only the ultimate of all crossovers but an attempt to streamline DC’s complicated continuity, the writer Marv Wolfman was of the opinion that they should wipe everything completely and start the DC universe again from the beginning. Unfortunately, from my opinion, they didn’t do this and years later one of the biggest criticisms of DC has been it’s almost impenetrable timeline and twisty turny charter histories. One of the things that excited me about this reboot was the thought of a completely fresh DC universe.

My excitement reached new levels after reading the first issue of Justice League which seemed to confirm the direction I thought DC was going to take. However subsequent titles have served to bring confusion and ambiguity to DC’s timeline. Some titles seem to be at the beginning of a characters career while others suggest that the DCU exists at a time point further down the line. This becomes compounded by those characters with multiple titles that place that charcter at different places in their own timeline. In short there seems to be no agreed upon point in time that the DC titles share. This does anything but simplify DC’s continuity, which I think is a fundamental oversite.

I also have a few problems with what I’m calling DC’s sideways continuity; the amalgamation of properties from DC imprints Wildstorm and Vertigo. I suspect I will like JL Dark but the characters involved seem much more suited to the adult arena of Vertigo and I’m still smarting at the removal of Madame Xanadu whose series I was enjoying. Likewise the premise of Stormwatch just feels shoehorned into the main DCU, it’s extreme approach jars with a world that also contains the Justice League and the Martian Manhunters involvement just seems bizarre.

Verdict

All in all, there is no way I can say that this relaunch has not been a success. I am now reading more DC than I have in a while and more than my wallet wants me to. There are some areas in which DC has dropped the ball in stunning and almost disgusting fashion but here are the titles I will be buying, listed by DC category

Justice League
Justice League, JLI, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, DC Universe Presents

Superman
Action Comics, Superman

Batman
Batman, Detective Comics, Batwoman, Batwing, Birds of Prey

Green Lantern
Green Lantern, New Guardians

The Dark
Justice League Dark, Animal Man, I,Vampire, Resurecction Man, Demon Knights

The Edge
Grifter, Deathstroke, All Star Western, Blackhawks

Young Justice

Teen Titans, Blue Beetle

I will continue to read every title for the the 2nd issues and report back as to whether my opinions and subscriptions have changed. Check back here in a couple of weeks for a DC month 2 verdict.
Till then let me know below whether you agree with my selections or are horrified by my omissions.

GS Reporter: Monts

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One comment

  1. Stacebob /

    Long time no chat, Sir Monty of the Syndicate! Just thought I’d share my 2 cents on the matters you’ve bought up regarding the relaunch:

    The Timeline: This has been the biggest struggling point for me; very few of the titles seem to be taking place at the same time, some seem to be set in something so close to the old universe you’d think there never was a relaunch, others with so many differences it’s hard to get your head around. As a bit of a DC fan I’ve found it hard to train my brain out of thinking of the old continuit and expecting things to be the same. But that’s my own fault. What is not my own fault is the new universe being practically as difficult to follow as the old. I mean, the GL titles seem to have just carried right on from pre-relaunch GL titles, yet other Action Comics is entirely different to anything we’ve seen before. Colour me confused.

    Diversity: I have issues discussing this with people, as my opinions tend to not go down too well, but hear me out here. I can totally understand that there have been some poor choices in terms of the relaunch (i.e. Waller being skinny; her weight has no bearing on her character so it seems a pointless move), but then again I think some people see diversity in a very weird way. Take for exapmle a conversation I once had with a lady who said that no female characters should ever get killed in comics, as this was a negative portrayal of females being weak/overpowered/wussy etc. I tried to argue theat only killing off men was doing the same thing to males, but she thought I was being doolally. What I’m trying to say here, albeit very badly, is that sometimes, women are sexy and forward and even slutty. Sometimes women get jobs as strippers. I don’t object to Voodoo being one because, well, strippers exist. Just because she’s a hero doesn’t mean she’s above that; people need money, and saving the world doesn’t get it. I actually think it’s pretty good that there a diverse range of occupations/situations being displayed in the DC universe now, from the top notch businessman/woman to family men/women, to strippers and even tealeaves )I’m looking at you, Catwoman :P) I had no problem with Starfie as she’s always barely worn anything and been proper sexy; it seems odd to decide that in a bikini she’s too sexy, as a lot of people have suggested (and in terms of that young girl who claimed that she didn’t like the new portrayal of Starfire because she didn’t do anything and you could almost see full boob; it’s issue one. Sometimes, people go on holidays to beaches; heroes can do that too. I sincerely doubt Starfire will be on the bench for every issue of Red Hood; give her time!) The one thing I do throroughly agree on, though, is the Africa portrayal. If my only knowledge of Africa was from these comics, I’d never wanna go cos it seems to be full of poor people and guns… Batgirl I semi-agree with you on; I loved Babs as Oracle and loved that a woman could be shown as strong and independent even given what she’s been through with the Joker. That being said, I think Batgirl has been written wonderfully so far and the treatment of her being able to walk now has been right on the money for me. Her reaction to someone pulling a gun on her was so genuine and realistic, loved it.

    Finally, just so you know, I am adoring Animal Man, Atom, the Batman and GL titles, and am pretty much undecided about everything else. Except Static, which I am so bored by…

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