Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The New 52, Here to Stay

So taking a break from the movie action for a moment to delve into the world of comic books. September has come and gone, and the first month of DC Comics' New 52, relaunching all of their comic book characters, from Superman to Batman to even Aquaman, has come and gone. All of this has been a reboot of sorts for the entire DC Universe, trying to streamline the characters to where there is not so much baggage weighing them down, so a new reader could pick up the book and know exactly what is going on and who this character is. But let's get some history on the event first.

In the past, DC has always operated with three separate parallel universes; in each universe there were subtle, and sometimes even, major differences in the origins of characters and whatnot. What the New 52 is doing, is taking the best parts of all three universes, then getting rid of what no longer fits, and consolidating it all back into one universe, so there are no more parallel realities. The idea, as said above, is to make the comics less confusing and more accessible. So even though it is a reboot, it is a reboot that DC has needed to do for nearly thirty years now (after their first attempt at simplifying, Infinite Crisis, ultimately just created another Universe rather than expunging the old). So obviously, certain characters have changed a lot, in particular Superman, who is more in line with his initial appearances in the late 1930s. Even so, certain characters, like Batman, simply pick up where they left off when the old DC Universe ended in August. But where is the New 52 going, now that it is not so new, and has it succeeded?

I have become a comic book junkie as of late, trying to read as many of the New 52 number one issues as possible, even still I have only collected 18 out of the whole. The comics have been flying off of store shelves, and if you snooze, you lose. I mean, you seriously have to make it to the comic book store within its first few hours of operation if you wanna get the comic before it sells out, these things have been selling so well. Even still, I have read everything from the Green Lantern books, to the Superman books, to the Batman books, and I even gave some things a shot that I never normally would, like Wonder Woman, Animal Man, and Swamp Thing. I still haven't managed to get my hands on The Flash and Aquaman, but I'm working on it.

The first thing I've noticed in reading, is that the New 52 books are some of the more exciting I've read in a long time. Even if DC doesn't manage to succeed in ultimately consolidating everything back to one universe, the quality of the stories and the sheer energy that the writers and artists have been bringing to the books has been the best I think I have ever seen in my lifetime. I mean, each week there are at least three treats waiting for me when I head on over to the comic book store. But what is so brilliant, is that DC has not just consolidated these books, but they are re-exploring and re-introducing these characters.

The two seminal books of the New 52 are Action Comics and Justice League. Action Comics is highlighting the tales of a young, brash Superman who fights against social injustice, and protects the little guy, while still a mystery to Metropolis. The story of Action Comics takes place a few years before Justice League, and Justice League takes place five years before the rest of the New DC Universe. What Action Comics is showing is the rise of the superhero, through the eyes of Superman, because as is alluded to in Justice League #1, superheroes are still a new phenomena and are feared by most. And Justice League is promising to show the rise of the superheroes as Earth's protectors and how the Justice League ultimately forms. These two comics are the history for the New 52, so they are the two must reads of the New 52, if you can only afford two.

After that, everything is business as usual in most of the other books. I mean, in Batman, Batman is Bruce Wayne, Robin is his son, Damian Wayne, Dick Grayson is Nightwing, and Tim Drake is Red Robin. It's almost as if Batman wasn't even restarted, aside from the fact that Dick is no longer in the cape and cowl, even though in Batman & Robin, they allude to the time that Dick and Damian spent fighting crime together as Batman and Robin, so Batman's death is obviously still included as a part of the New 52 Universe. And you see a lot of this in the other books. I mean, Blackest Night still happened, and The War of the Green Lanterns still happened, as Green Lantern picks up with last month's surprise of Hal Jordan being stripped of his power ring by the Guardians and the ring choosing Sinestro as the new Green Lantern of Sector 2814.

I think the greatest thing about the New 52 though, is it is not just re-imagining these characters or re-enforcing their greatness, it is also expanding on their universes. Green Lantern: New Guardians proved to be the most entertaining read of the New 52, with noble, pure of heart Kyle Rayner (my favorite Green Lantern of Sector 2814) tapped to head up a team bringing together six other Lanterns from the six other emotional spectrum's (Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Indigo, Purple). Or DC steering ahead with Batman, Inc. by introducing Batwing, the Batman of Africa, in quite possibly the most surprising book in the New 52 line-up. And Supergirl was a genuine delight, with the book promising to serve up the Kryptonian history for the New 52 that Action Comics seems to be avoiding in order to focus more on the human aspects of Superman.

The biggest detractor of the New 52 simply is, it doesn't feel that new. With the exceptions of Justice League and Action Comics, it feels like business as usual in the DC Universe. There and again, DC tends to favor the slow burn approach nowadays with their stories, so more will be revealed in time as to what all has really changed and what has remained constant. I for one have enjoyed every minute of it simply because one can tell the writers are jazzed about essentially having a blank slate to go from, but as I said earlier, we'll see where things go from here. So with September over, I've decided to drop down my top 10 faves of the New 52, so you guys can check 'em out if interested:

10. Supergirl
9. Justice League
8. Detective Comics
7. Superman
6. Batwing
5. Green Lantern Corps.
4. Batman & Robin
3. Batman
2. Green Lantern: The New Guardians
1. Action Comics

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