One Year of DC's the NEW 52: The 10 Worst Things

<i>By Vaneta Rogers, Newsarama Contributor and <a href=>Graeme McMillan, Newsarama Contributor</a></i> <p>This Friday sees the one-year anniversary of the release of <em>Justice League #1</em>, the first title from DC Comics' much-heralded New 52 that rebooted the DC Universe for a new audience and a new era. By turns exciting, controversial and downright confusing, the 600+ issues that have appeared since last August's launch of a new universe have brought <a href="">new highs</a> to Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the World's Greatest Super-Heroes, but also some new lows. <p>On Monday, we celebrated some of the high points of the New 52's first year of print. Today... well, here are some of those not-so-high points, as we count down our 10 least favorite results of the revamp, from the lack of some favorite characters to conflicts between creators and editors. <p>Click through our countdown by pressing "start here" in the upper-right hand corner, and head to Twitter and Facebook to tell us your least favorite thing. <p><a href=>One Year of DC's the NEW 52: The 10 Best Things</a> <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p> <p>


One of the great things about the pre-New 52 DC Universe was its depth; it wasn't just the Justice League or Teen Titans that protected the world, there was an entire lineup of C-grade (and lower) characters to fight the good fight while the stars were having their moments in the spotlight. <p>Post-New 52, however, the superheroic universe seems so much smaller, and so less interesting. Where are oddball characters like the Knight and Squire, Tasmanian Devil and B'Wana Beast these days? When a character as obscure as Vibe makes a reappearance, these days, it comes via the high-profile <em>Justice League of America</em> title, and even the Outsiders' Looker is getting her own <em>National Comics</em> one-shot (pictured) as she debuts in the New 52niverse. <p>In the current DCU, it feels as if almost all of the superheroes are the stars of their own stories, and therefore their adventures have to have the importance and intensity that that kind of thing demands in order for readers to come back month after month. The current DCU is at a loss for having more stars, and fewer bit players.


With all the advance publicity and media interest, The New 52 provided DC with its strongest chance to reach new readers in recent memory. The "Young Justice" line of teen heroes, in particular, seemed perfectly placed to offer up new takes on the publisher's youngest heroes that would appeal to those who'd grown up with the <i>Teen Titans</i> and <i>Young Justice</i> TV shows. <p>All the more perplexing, then, to see veteran creators with two decades (or more) of superhero experience given titles like <i>Teen Titans</i>, <em>The Ravagers</em> and <em>Legion Lost</em>, not to mention taking over books like <em>Grifter</em> and <em>Deathstroke</em> from younger, up-and-coming creators. Ignoring the fact that Scott Lobdell, Rob Liefeld (who recently, and very publicly, cut ties with DC), and Howard Mackie were surprising choices for the relaunch considering their lack of previous history with DC, giving the books that should specifically be the most in tune with contemporary pop culture and "the kids" to creators a generation or two removed raises some questions. Maybe they were hoping for a mini-revival of the Image boom?


With 52 monthly titles up for grabs, it was disappointing to see deserving characters left on the shelf. The now-canceled <em>Static Shock</em> was the only revival from the entire Milestone line? <em>Stormwatch</em>, <em>Voodoo</em> and <em>Grifter</em> were the only Wildstorm books? (Sure, <em>Team 7</em> is coming, but <em>Voodoo</em> has already disappeared.) Even among more traditional DC characters, there have been noticeable absences: the lack of an Atom book, for example, or seeing Steel as the only Superman family hero without an ongoing. <p>Worse still, as the second and third wave of titles have debuted, there've been few surprises in the selection of titles, with only <em>Sword of Sorcery</em>'s Amethyst and <em>Dial H</em> pulling from the publisher's varied back catalog of characters and concepts in any manner of depth outside of the superhero genre. <p>It feels greedy to complain about conservative allocation of titles when the initial lineup included both <em>OMAC</em> and <em>Mister Terrific</em>, but still: Would the world really rather have <em>Red Lanterns</em> more than a well-done <em>Hardware</em> series?


Twelve months of comics and three "waves" of launch announcements in, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that, just maybe, you've seen all of this before somewhere. Sixty-two ongoing series have been created for The New 52 at this point, in addition to the series of <em>National Comics</em> one-shots designed to showcase characters who don't have their own series (yet) plus a handful of miniseries, and yet, the number of brand new characters who have been introduced to the DC Universe as a result of a year of creativity can apparently be counted on your fingers. <p>In fact, only one series from The New 52's entire first year of publication <em>The Ravagers</em> isn't a revival of an existing DC title, and even in that case, its core characters are revivals of heroes who had existed in the old DC and Wildstorm universes (<em>Talon</em> will double that total when it debuts next month). <p>It's one thing to want to focus on reviving fan-favorite characters and meet the demand for familiar faces, but if The New 52 really wants to live up to its billing, it needs to start coming up with something that is genuinely <em>new</em>, and soon.


OK, we admit it. We listed "no more late books" as one of the best things about The New 52. But that accomplishment is tainted by the fact that, in order to keep the books coming out on time, artwork has sometimes suffered. <p>Having an issue or two drawn by an alternate artist is understandable and sometimes it turns out to be awesome, like George Perez giving Mahmud Asrar a rest on <em>Supergirl</em>, or Gene Ha working on <em>Justice League</em> (the cover to issue #7, which Ha did the interiors for, is pictured). <p>But too often, a single issue will have more than one penciler involved. In the middle of a story, the art will switch, often interrupting the flow of an otherwise good story. We'd like DC to get long-term planning into place that would prevent those types of problems so comics can retain the "wow" factor of a great penciller on a great story. (One penciller per story, that is, unless the plot calls for varying visuals.)


Although we're trying to look at the big picture of The New 52 in this list without getting too specific on which of our favorite characters or concepts have changed or vanished (Wally? Donna? The apparently cursed Stephanie Brown?) we keep coming back to this one character as a sticking point. We just can't get around the fact that the loss of Oracle was among the worst things to happen with The New 52. <p>Yes, Barbara is pretty cool as Batgirl, and Gail Simone was the right person to handle the change. Yes, we understand the "pros" of making her a younger, more active heroine. <p>But losing one of the most high-profile disabled characters in all of comics one that has already been established in other, more mainstream media seemed like a negative at the time The New 52 was announced. And after a year of the comics themselves, it's still a negative.


The original Silver Age costumes for characters like The Flash and Green Lantern are classics of minimal design and branding, based around simple shapes and icons to represent the characters and their abilities. In much the same way, Superman and Batman's outfits were deservedly iconic. <p>The idea that any of those costumes would be improved by adding more lines (especially ones that seem to serve no purpose; is Hal Jordan wearing shoulder pads now...?) and making their cleanliness unnecessarily busier remains one of the greater mysteries of The New 52 to date: Who thought that was a good idea? And how long do we have to wait until everyone agrees that, sure, maybe getting rid of the red trunks on Superman wasn't the worst idea in the world, but there's really no reason a completely invulnerable man would need to wear a suit of armor even an alien suit of armor? <p>We can but hope that the costume changes prove to be something that are constantly revised as the series go on, and that each subsequent makeover restores some of the original grace to each hero's look. <p>And maybe gives Wonder Woman some pants, too.


One of the side effects of getting rid of your universe's entire history is that suddenly, nothing fits together like it used to. While there were benefits to tearing down the giant walls of continuity that were blocking writers, The New 52 ended up ripping out too much of the foundation in the process. Are fans interested in a Deathstroke that has never fought the Teen Titans? Does a Superboy interest Superman fans if he has nothing to do with Clark Kent? <p>Seemingly trying to make up for that lost cohesiveness, DC started crossing over titles within a couple months of The New 52's launch. Batman and Superman started showing up in other titles, and from January to May, there was rarely a week that didn't have a crossover issue released. Readers had to choose whether to buy extra comics every month to understand the titles that were just starting to establish themselves in the first place. <p>While it's a good idea to build the DCU foundation again, the crossovers are getting a little silly. DC backed away from the trend this summer, but that was apparently just a temporary reprieve as we prepared for more inter-title crossovers this fall, and next year's full-scale <em>Trinity War</em> crossover event.


Once upon a time in other words, before September 2011 the DC Universe had history. It wasn't that the stories were part of a larger narrative that had been published for decades, although there was that, but that characters in the DCU had at least the illusion of growth and aging. <p>The Justice Society had fought in World War II. New characters took on the name and legacy of their predecessors, and had to deal with the weight and responsibility that brought. <p>There was, at the very least, the idea of things being impermanent and change being part of the world, because you knew that Hal Jordan was Earth's second Green Lantern, or that Dick Grayson had not only retired as Robin, but that he'd gone on to grow into the mantle of his mentor. <p>Now, all of that has been wiped away, and the DCU's superheroic history only stretches back for five years or so. Sure, that might make the stories easier to sell as jumping on points for new readers, but there's a lot that's been lost in the process that didn't need to be.


Soon after the relaunch, DC was making surprising changes to its creative lineup. Several writers were suddenly yanked from books sometimes being given no reason why and others were announcing their departure over "editorial differences." <p>It became difficult to keep up the changes, particularly between months three and eight. From the revolving door on <i>Stormwatch</i> and <i>Green Arrow</i>, to the weird shake-up on <i>Static Shock</i>, to the unused scripts from previously acclaimed writers like Sterling Gates and Ron Marz, to the revolving door for writers and artists on titles like <em>Superman</em> and <em>Firestorm</em>, it's starting to look like a juggling act since The New 52's inception. <p>If a book isn't doing well, it's admirable for an editor to swiftly make changes and try something new. But as we've seen from Rob Liefeld's public resignation from the publisher, there are times when creators and editors are not only not on the same page about the direction of a title, but openly in conflict over the topic. And that's not a good thing for anyone, especially not the reader.

One Year of DC's the NEW 52: The 10 Worst Things

Date: 30 May 2012 Time: 08:18 PM ET