'THESE ARE A FEW OF OUR FAV-OR-ITE THINGS'1 of 12After last week's eulogy for the DC Universe as was, this week it's time not to bury the New 52, but to praise it.
Although there's much to be missed about what has been lost by relaunching the entire DCU from the very beginning, there's a lot to admire and enjoy about the New 52, from concept all the way through to execution. Even if you think that you're not on board the New 52 DC Universe, check out these ten reasons and see if you're more of a fan than you might have thought.
THE MULTIVERSE IS BACK, FOR REAL2 of 12It's a small thing, but as an old-school fan, it's nice to see the multiverse actually being used in the DCU as part of the New 52. After each of the two earlier attempts to revive the concept, post-Crisis -- in The Kingdom and then 52 -- use of the alternate worlds was extremely limited and almost nonexistent outside of a couple of writers.
Seeing it being used as the basis for two ongoing series and the current crossover event feels far more appropriate a return for a concept that drove much of DC's Silver and Bronze ages, and one that differentiated the publisher from its biggest competitor. The Multiverse was, at one point, something that almost defined DC Comics. It's good to see it back.
NEW (AND OLD) CREATORS3 of 12It's admittedly very easy to rag on the New 52's tendency to work through creators at such a rate that writers can leave series before their first issue has even been released, or artists can't even complete full issues for whatever reason, but despite -- because of? -- the constant turnover, there's a new creative guard at DC these days with the likes of Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire, Robert Venditti, Greg Pak and others in prominent positions, and "old guard" creators like Dan Jurgens, Marv Wolfman and Keith Giffen getting high-profile books as well. For all the missteps that have been made, this isn't the same creative line-up that existed before the New 52, and one of the things necessary for the line to live up to its name.
IT'S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL4 of 12The concept of pushing the "traditional" DC Universe, Vertigo universe and WildStorm universe together had a certain amount of "recipe for disaster" written all over it -- not least because of the tonal differences between the three, as well as the similarities (Just the Superman analogues in the WildStorm universe alone make things confusing). In practice, it's hardly been a seamless mix to date -- Stormwatch has included a total continuity reboot to date, and the early issues of Justice League Dark felt particularly divorced from everything else going on -- but the end result is nonetheless a fictional universe that feels a little bit larger and more diverse than it was before, even if it's also a little less coherent.
If nothing else, it's nice to see Swamp Thing interacting with Superman every now and again. Hey, even Alan Moore wrote that kind of thing happening…!
SEPTEMBER IS A SPECIAL TIME5 of 12The idea that each anniversary of the New 52 is marked with a month of special releases -- be they zero issues or replacement titles -- may not be one that's been greeted with wholehearted excitement by the industry at large for many reasons, including some very good ones (We can all agree that the Villains' Month releases were, at best, mishandled), but I have to admit that I really like it. There's something both goofy and exciting about knowing that something special is going to happen each and every September to celebrate the birthday of the reboot. It's like having a special holiday just for the comic industry.
Of course, if things should go awry and turn out awkwardly as a result of the holiday -- well, it's not like there's anyone who doesn't have a Thanksgiving in their past that they'd rather have turned out differently, right?
FINITE CRISIS6 of 12That it took two years for the New 52 to have a line-wide event is something that seems almost unthinkable, considering both the dependable regularity of such series before Flashpoint, and also the two-events-per-year schedule over at Marvel these days. This isn't to say that there weren't big storylines unfolding, but things such as "Throne of Atlantis," "Rise of the First Lantern" and even "Trinity War" were all kept relatively small, making them arguably more attractive to readers who didn't want to commit to 30+ issues to get the whole story, and also more organic in terms of storytelling.
Forever Evil, of course, is a far bigger beast -- one that includes an 18-issue crossover inside the main event, as the Dark books have their own event-as-part-of-an-event. It remains to be seen whether this is a special occasion or the shape of things to come. I can't help but wonder if I'm in the minority hoping that it's the former.
A BREAK FROM THE NORM7 of 12One of the things that has been overlooked -- and, to a large extent, sadly lost through low sales and subsequent cancellations -- was the way in which the New 52 has tried to extend its genre reach outside of just superheroes. Titles such as GI Combat, Men of War and even Threshold and Blackhawks have tried to sidestep the traditional costume and powers output of DC and delve into alternative genres such as horror, war, western and science fiction.
Of the various launches, only Swamp Thing, All Star Western and Constantine really remain in the New 52 to fly the non-costumed flag, and all three of those books have increased the amount of crossover with "regular" superheroing as time has gone on. A sad commentary on the Direct Market's support for non-superhero books? Perhaps -- but at least the attempt was made.
GUESS WHO?8 of 12Blame it on the constant need for new material and new titles, but one thing you can't convincingly accuse the New 52 of is ignoring some of the more obscure characters in DC's back catalog. Can you really imagine, five years ago, believing that characters such as Vibe, Amethyst or the Green Team would not only have been revived in the first place, but given their own monthly titles?
This wider approach to potential characters and concepts can't be dismissed as scraping the bottom of the barrel through desperation -- the New 52 launched with Voodoo, OMAC and I, Vampire, amongst others. Starting over from scratch gave DC the chance to abandon some of the stranger and more obscure parts of their universe, but it's been refreshing to see so many of them return when you least expect it.
AND INTRODUCING…9 of 12Something that's been little referred to over the last few years has been the unusual sight of seeing new concepts and characters being given their own titles at DC. Pandora, Talon, Batwing, Threshold, The Movement and the upcoming Aquaman and The Others all spring to mind, and you could arguably throw in all-but-the-title series like The Green Team in there as well.
This is one of those things that should be the norm -- a new idea, given prominent placement and support! -- but, for whatever reasons (Let's call them economic, shall we?) just hasn't been the case at either of the Big Two over the last decade or so (When was the last time an all-new character received their own series at Marvel? Hit Monkey?). This is something that may be down to the ever-hungry machine that is the New 52 publishing schedule, but whatever the reason, it should be applauded. Let's have some more new, please.
THE WORLD OUTSIDE YOUR WINDOW10 of 12Another element of the initial New 52 launch that has, sadly, fallen away in the face of low sales and the resultant increasing conservatism, was the push for greater diversity in the characters leading the New 52 line. OMAC, Mister Terrific, Static Shock, Batwing and Voodoo all offered solo leads of color, while Amanda Waller dominated Suicide Squad. Similarly, Voodoo, Catwoman, Batwoman, Batgirl, Birds of Prey, Supergirl and Wonder Woman offered a kind of female-led line-up unseen from either of the Big Two previously.
While the racial diversity has dramatically fallen off since the launch -- something DC really needs to work to address with future launches, especially in the light of the recent cancellation of Vibe and seeming disappearance of Simon Baz -- the gender diversity stays impressively strong. As one of the two leaders of the mainstream comics industry, this is something that DC should be recognized for -- but also something that it should continue to work hard to improve.
THE UNEXPECTED11 of 12For all the familiarity of the New 52 -- not simply that the line exists to refresh and reposition familiar and classic characters, but also that certain storylines, like Forever Evil, include elements of earlier stories -- there are times when the line will do something that seems so out of the blue as to be almost hair brained. Superman and Wonder Woman hooking up? Hal Jordan taking over as the leader of the Green Lantern Corps? The Joker's face getting cut off for reasons that I'm still not entirely clear on?
For all the gnashing of teeth and complaining that such decisions invariably produce in the fan community -- including, at times, my own grumbling and whining -- there's something great about them all. There's an unpredictability about the New 52 that wasn't there in the "old" DCU -- a sense that almost anything could happen for once, for better or worse, that makes the line more interesting and compelling as a whole purely out of the impulse to know what is going to happen next. The DC Universe feels unexpected and different -- and, ultimately, that's a good thing for a line of comics that will outlive us all.
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