One year ago today, DC Comics officially rebooted their entire Universe with the release of “Justice League” #1. The risky move split comic book readers right down the middle. Some fans celebrated the monumental move, while others cringed at the loss of continuity. All the old DC titles ended, in some way or another, and new books started to fill the shelves of local comic shops. Now that we’ve had a year to reflect on the reboot, let’s talk about the ups and downs, the successes and failures, and imagine what the future holds for the no-longer-New 52.
It will help to begin by examining what DC hoped to achieve with the reboot. There main goals were: 1. Revitalize their Universe 2. Attract in new readers and 3. Deliver innovative approaches to their superheroes. Some readers were all for a reboot, a new era in the world of costumed heroes. Others were furious with DC for putting a stop to some of their favorite titles (“Secret Six”, “Red Robin”, etc.). Regardless of which side you fell on, it was going to take some time to get used to brand new titles and creative teams. DC’s goals were, and still are, admirable, especially in an industry where fans can go from love to hate at the drop of a hat.
Taking innovative approaches to already existing superheroes is by far the most difficult of DC’s goals to judge. I am convinced, for the most part, that DC succeeded. It’s easy to pick out the titles that have been red hot since last year. Snyder’s “Batman”, Lemire’s “Animal Man”, and Azzarello’s “Wonder Woman” immediately come to mind. The New 52 allowed creators to rejuvenate the characters. Snyder was already weaving epic Bat-books, but I doubt Azzarello would have written “Wonder Woman”, or moreover, I doubt “Animal Man” would have been a successful ongoing title without the New 52. While John’s “Justice League” could not be more textbook, titles like “Swamp Thing”, “Frankenstein”, and “Action Comics” are taking new approaches to these characters and changing how they exist in the DCU. At least, as much as they can with out pissing off long-time readers.
The entertainment industry as a whole is progressively leaning more toward horror content, and the fact that DC is publishing such solid horror comics is a big step forward. The reboot allowed DC to categorize their titles into groups, such as the Dark lineup. It’s shocking how much DC is focusing on horror comics, as that “stuff” was usually left to Vertigo. Before the reboot, horror was a small thing at DC, and definitely was not part of their mainstream catalog.
“I, Vampire” and “Justice League Dark” are two of the most underrated books being published today. Plus, having Constantine in the middle of the DC Universe is amazing. Hopefully we’ll get to see him and “Swamp Thing” cross paths; a possibility now that Lemire is now on “JLD” (and we all know how much him and Snyder like working together). The future for horror comics is looking brighter than it has in a long time, in part due to DC’s New 52.
However, it would be ignorant to say that DC completely achieved all their goals. One of their central ambitions was to eliminate massive crossover events, and to focus more on one-and-done titles. Take a look at “Night of the Owls”, an event that I love, yet it crossed with every single Bat-book and even bled into other titles like “All-Star Western”. That smells like a big event to me. This isn’t the best way to keep new readers, which is the same problem the old DC faced. I can’t tell you how many times I read on forums “I’m new to comics, do I need to read all these Batman books to understand what’s going on?!!” While crossovers were bound to happen eventually, a gradual gravitation toward them would have been a more strategic move. However, DC is doing it right with Lemire and Snyder’s “Rotworld”.
The one-and-done titles on the other hand are nowhere to be seen; even in their anthology “DC Comics Presents” (the first Deadman arc was brilliant but not a one-and-done). Only with the launch of “National Comics” last month and the #0 issues coming in September are we seeing one-issue stories.
Along with the new books came the same-day digital releases, something that had not been done before. Though digital copies should be sold at a discounted rate, the digital availability is huge for casual and international readers, marking the dawn of what some are calling “The Digital Age”. However the release of the printed collected editions is extremely untimely. We are still waiting for the first volume of some titles to be collected, which is ridiculous. Major titles should be collected no longer than two month after the arc finishes, in my opinion, especially when they do not offer any extra content.
I believe that the best thing to come from the New 52 was that it forced me to take a look at new characters I would have overlooked otherwise. “Aquaman” is a prime example of a book I would not have given the time of day in a pre-New 52 world, but with the relaunch it was a whole new ballgame. I was apathetic at the start, and I chose to take enter with an open mind, a (mostly) subjective standpoint, and a journalistic urge to see if DC would succeed or fail.
So, where do we stand one year later? With more than 52 new titles launched in the past year, there were bound to be some flops and some rough patches. What’s important is they delivered some amazing books that could not have happened without a reboot. Not to mention Rob Liefeld’s long-awaited retirement from the company. DC took a ballsy risk, and thus far it’s coming up roses. DC has big plans for the coming year giving us a lot to look forward to.
So I ask you, do you feel the New 52 was a success? What did you like? What didn’t you like?
Suggested New 52 Readings:
- Animal Man
- Swamp Thing
- Justice League Dark
- I, Vampire
- Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE
- Wonder Woman