Thursday, September 22, 2011

My view on the 52

This month, DC Comics took their entire line of comic books back to one.  A total reboot.  Flagship characters such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman will never be the same...or so the ad copy goes.
I get the idea.  Comic book readership is dying and the publisher wants to appeal to a wider audience.  One of the main hurdles to new readers has always been the tangled web of continuity that most comics have behind them, making it difficult for new people to just jump on in the midst of a series.  The 52 all-new #1 titles are supposed to erase all of that.  To start reading DC Comics now, one need not have any prior knowledge of DC, continuity, or even superheroes.  

But will it work?  Fresh start or no, you're only going to keep readers if your issues are quality.  I managed to pick up only two of the #1s at my local store so my sample is admittedly small.  That aside, I'll now offer my own view of how I think it's going.

Action Comics #1.  He's back.  A cynical hero for our dark times (or so one headline read.)  His costume is jeans, a t-shirt, and a cape.  He has trouble making the rent.  He's a hipster.  He's Superman.
Going to let you absorb that for a moment.  Superman also kicks out dialogue such as "I'm your worst nightmare" and dangles bad guys from rooftops.  I think writer Grant Morrison has been writing Batman for too long and is quite confused.
Superman is one of my two all-time favorite characters (the other being Batman.)  Any character that has been around for nearly 100 years like Superman needs to change with the times or else the character becomes stagnant and dies.  An example of this, as writer/editor Denny O'Neil says, is Paul Bunyan.  Sure, people know the character.  But how many actually care about him?  And I would argue that Superman has changed with the times.  Yet what's happening in Action is in so many ways contrary to Superman's core character.  I certainly recognize him but his speech and his actions are not the character I came to love.  Therefore I have no interest and will not return to him as he fights corruption in the inner workings of Metropolis as Lex Luthor plots.  Again, is Morrison sure he's not writing Batman?

Justice League International #1.  It's true, we're a global village and these heroes aim to represent that fact.  Rocket Red is there from Russia, Fire and Ice represent Brazil and Norway respectively, and a hero from China whose name is so long that I refuse to type it.  Batman is there, trying to keep the whole thing wrangled.  The series is being written by Dan Jurgens, a guy who knows how to turn in a solid and entertaining superhero story.  He's brought a bit of edge with him this time, something I have a feeling was urged by DC editorial (I'm just trying to envision Dan Jurgens and Grant Morrison sitting the same room together.)  There's apparently a loose organization of people who don't trust superheroes and how this particular aspect of the Justice League is being run by world governments.  They are prepared to defy this development by any means necessary.  
JLI was definitely my favorite of the two.  Mainly because Jurgens did exactly what he does best which is as I said, churn out a decent story.  But that's all it was.  Decent.

Is "decent" going to be enough to bring repeat sales?  These days, I don't think it's enough.  I plan on giving a few other books in the #1's a try, such as Batman, Justice League, Green Lantern, and Batwoman...but I'm not going back to Action or any Superman title for that matter.  If you fundamentally change Superman, you fundamentally change the DC Universe and not for the better.  That and I've never really been Morrison's biggest fan.

Small bit of hope, there is a mysterious, hooded woman who has shown up in one panel of each new #1.  There is much fan speculation, because that's what we fans do best...speculate, that this is a being who has the ability to "reboot the reboot" and bring everything in the DCU back to the way it was.

So that they can do something exactly like this all over again in another 10 or 15 years.

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