It's been more than two and 1/2 years since DC Comics launched the New 52, restarting its continuity in a way that made even the classic <em>Crisis on Infinite Earths</em> relaunch look tame in comparison. For everything that's come since that that fateful September of 2011 -- including more <em>Justice Leagues</em> that you could shake a stick at -- there are still some things we miss about the "old" DCU. Here are ten of them.
It was one thing to realize that Superman was no longer married to Lois Lane in New 52 continuity -- but then came the realization that the Flash was similarly no longer married to Iris (or even dating her), Hawkman had no Hawkwoman, and Aquaman and Mera were apparently in a relationship that may be long-term and committed, but definitely wasn't married. Oh, and then there's the whole Batwoman marriage that will apparently never happen. In New 52 continuity, it appears that only Animal Man and Ellen get to tie the knot. <p>There's something strange about what appears to be some major commitment-phobia when it comes to superheroes and their loved ones over at DC these days. Maybe they're worried that the wedding band is made out of kryptonite, or perhaps it's concern over whether it'll ruin the line of their gloves -- either way, it'd be nice to see a wedding or two at some point, for variety if nothing else.
April is a big month for fan-favorite characters making their comeback to the DCU after too long away, with Wally West and Stephanie Brown debuting in new incarnations, while Ted Kord -- who will appear in March's <em>Forever Evil</em> #7 -- settles into his new series, <em>Justice League</em>. But that leaves one character still conspicuous by her absence: Donna Troy. <p>With <em>Teen Titans</em> coming to an end in April, is there a chance that Donna might stage a comeback of her own before too long in a brand new <em>Titans</em> series, or will she have to wait on the cosmic bench of limbo alongside Jason Bard and Randu Singh for awhile longer? C’mon, even Ambush Bug has been allowed back in the <em>Channel 52</em> pages…!
Okay, sure; the Daily Planet technically exists in the New 52 -- we've seen it in issues of <em>Superman</em>. But these days, you could be forgiven for remembering that, especially considering that Clark Kent quit to become a full-time blogger more than a year ago. The classic Superman supporting cast of Lois, Jimmy, Perry et al have been pushed to the side in the <em>Super</em>-titles since then, and it's an absence that can be felt in the books themselves. <p>Superman works best as a character when he's surrounded not only by friends and peers -- you could argue that the Justice League serve those roles quite well, especially with Wonder Woman now Superman's girlfriend -- but by <em>human</em> friends and peers that can put his super-actions in context and provide an alternative to his costumed lifestyle. <em>That</em> is something that's been missing in the New 52: something to ground Clark Kent and make him more relatable to readers. The Daily Planet used to provide that, and Clarkcatopolis really can't compare.
In the pre-<em>Flashpoint</em> DCU, if a superhero wanted information, they knew exactly who to ask: Barbara Gordon, AKA Oracle. Gordon's post-Batgirl persona wasn't merely an information hub to curious and lazy superheroes, however; she was also the center of the superhuman community, and a sign that the good guys may not always get along, but at least they could work together towards a common goal. <p>These days, Gordon is still around as the all-swinging, all-asskicking Batgirl, but there's a noticeable void where Oracle once existed. Heroes are either aligned with the Justice League or oversight committee known as A.R.G.U.S., or they're out on their own and working in the dark. While this new reality certainly provides material for drama moving forwards, the lack of a sense of community amongst the various superheroes of the DCU is something that makes the New 52niverse feel smaller, and not in a good way.
Okay, this may be a strange one, but Oolong Island -- the island state populated entirely by mad scientists that first appeared in <em>52</em> back in 2006 (Yes, eight years ago, and yes, you're getting old) -- was a concept that celebrated the endless inventiveness of DCU science in all its goofy glory, as only befits an island where one of the inhabitants was a genocidal giant talking egg. <p>Oolong's various scientist inhabitants were reminders of everything that had been accomplished in the DCU, from lifelike androids to time travel to… well, what Doctor Cyclops, Dr. Rigoro Mortis and others brought to the party was somewhat obscure admittedly, but that was almost the point. It was a concept that reminded readers that <em>anything was possible</em>, which was as exciting as it was fun. Compare that to the mysterious, vague technology of the New 52, which seems limited in scope and invention for the most part, and it's clear that the current state of DC science needs a giant leap forwards.
Once upon a time, DC's Earth was an intergalactic hub -- characters would arrive from other planets, leave for other planets or simply just take jaunts in space whenever they felt like it. Since the New 52 began, there's been an odd separation between what happens on Earth and "out there." That's not to say that characters don't occasionally switch from one to the other -- it's just that, when they do, they don't appear to be buying return tickets. <p>Consider Hal Jordan, who left Earth (and the Justice League) to go deal with the problems in <em>Green Lantern</em> a year or so ago and hasn't been seen on Earth since. Or Blue Beetle, who similarly went off in <em>Threshold</em> and, although he was returned to Earth at the end of the series, hasn't made an appearance again yet. It's not that there aren't stories happening out there in DC Universe Space, it's that there seems to be a disconnect between what happens there and what happens here. Hopefully, the upcoming <em>Justice League United</em> will change that.
The New 52 DC Universe feels like a small place. That shouldn't be true -- there are, currently, adventures on three different "worlds" to contend with, thanks to <em>Forever Evil</em> -- but restarting the universe only two years ago has had the unintended consequence of meaning that almost all of the superheroes in the current DCU have had their own comic books, or been members of teams that do. Gone are the days of a world where obscure characters like B'wana Beast, Atlas and the Little Mermaid were out there, toiling away in the background while the Justice League got all the headlines. <p>Oh, the ranks of those outside of the New 52 spotlight have been grown by series like James Robinson's <em>Shade</em>, <em>Batman, Incorporated</em> and <em>DC Universe Presents</em>, but it'll take a long time to regrow the amount of crime fighters (and supporting characters, and villains) that existed in the old days, when you really didn't know if an old favorite could re-appear without any warning whatsoever.
It sounds snarky, but it's meant genuinely: Two years into the New 52, keeping track of what's actually happened is actually <em>more</em> difficult than it was before the universe was rebooted, and you had multiple (often contradictory) stories to try and make work together. Was Tim Drake actually a Robin or not in the New 52? Was Starfire a member of a Teen Titans team we've never seen? Has Doomsday already killed Superman already, and if so, did he come out of the Phantom Zone? <p>The new <em>Secret Origins</em> series stands as a source to clear up a lot of this confusion (or, worryingly, add to it -- let's just assume that won't happen, for now), which is a good thing. Better yet would be a brand new <em>Who's Who</em> or <em>History of the DC Universe</em> targeted directly at creating a definitive record of just what happened in the five year gap of story between the formation of the Justice League and the launch of the rest of the New 52.
In current continuity, superheroes have only really been active on Earth since the debut of Superman, which happened -- at most -- six or seven years previously. That means that a large part of DC mythology -- the entire career of the Justice Society -- has been entirely discarded, both on the main Earth and, as we've seen, on Earth 2 (which, if anything, may be lagging behind the main Earth in terms of superhero timelines). <p>This shift makes a lot of sense in terms of trying to make the DC Universe more appealing to contemporary audiences, but that doesn't mean that it makes the loss of characters who represent DC's origins as a publisher any easier. More than Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman -- characters who have been constantly updated since their first appearances -- losing the original incarnations of Alan Scott, Jay Garrick, Ted Grant et al feels as if DC is trying to ignore or deny its own history, instead of celebrate it. Let's bring them back as citizens of Earth-22 or something, huh?
Another casualty of the updated timeline for the New 52 is the sense of superheroics being a legacy career. Barry Allen was no longer inspired by Jay Garrick, and Wally West no longer took up the identity after Barry. The notion that a superheroic identity is somehow bigger, or more long-lasting, than any one individual is another part of DC's DNA as a publisher, subtext from the Silver Age made into text during the 1980s and '90s when the characters started acknowledging their predecessors right there on the page. <p>More than anything else, this is why Wally West has been so missed in the New 52 -- it's not the character as such, but what he represents: Wally was the sidekick who managed to grow up and into the mantle handed down to him, and win the respect of his fellow superheroes and the readers in the process. It was something that made the character almost unique, and very appealing to readers, because we got to see him grow up. With just two years under its belt, the New 52 has a ways to go before it can attempt such a thing -- if that's even something it's interested in.