I am open about how much I do not like DC New 52. It’s not about change. New 52 wasn’t exactly unexpected. It was built from a Crisis event that had me grinding my teeth in frustration with every issue. Final Crisis. What a mess. And it wasn’t guided by a fanboy turned editor like the Spider-Man One More Days stupidity. This was guided by the demi-god of weird, Grant Morrison. Grant Morrison was put on Batman and sales went through the roof. Just like DC/Warner figure the success of Nolan’s Batman movies meant they had to make every movie that dark and giving it to a director who can’t really handle that kind of tone, the powers at be in DC seemed to tell everyone “follow Grant Morrison’s lead. Don’t get me wrong, I happen to like Grant Morrison when he’s put on the right book. His JLA and Doom Patrol are just some of the best comic reading you’ll ever get. But his Batman was, sometimes all over the place. There were really good ideas in it, like bringing Damien back from the Batman: Son of the Demon graphic novel. The Batman Incorporated thing was interesting. But Batcow? Batkitten? Give me a fucking break. So everyone jumped on board and the DC Universe simply went to hell. Right after Final Crisis came Flashpoint. This was a pretty good event, and it wasn’t heavily advertised. It too had a lot of great ideas but was obviously a way to reboot the DC universe again. And from Flashpoint New 52 was born.
The First Crisis
In as the 1970’s went along Marvel comics was enjoying better sales than DC. The main reason was DC stubbornly refused to change with the times. DC flirted with some forms of diversity, and did the occasional adult story, but for the most part they were the same old DC. Marvel was doing stories about mental illness, death, cancer, spousal abuse, the homeless. So the perception always was Marvel was real. Then DC started hiring new writers. A guy name Alan Moore, a guy named J.M. DeMatteis, Frank Miller, Matt Wagner and others. They then did Crisis on Infinite Earths to sweep away clutter. Right after crisis DC became a force rivaling and often over taking Marvel. Third tier characters like Animal Man and Green Arrow were suddenly elevated to popular status. They created Vertigo, Constantine, Preacher and the JLA became the goddamn JLA again.
It wasn’t all joy. During the 1980’s and 1990’s they obviously could not get a handle on Superman. The hope that John Byrne would work the same magic on the man of steel he did with Fantastic Four and X-Men didn’t pan out. They did a couple of other universe reboots, killed him, split him into two energy beings but they couldn’t figure out Superman. Same with Wonder Woman. In the 2000’s they tried a trinity thing but fell back to doing one crisis after the other.
New 52 Hell
Which brought us to Final Crisis. The one thing Final Crisis started doing was bring up every obscure thing or idea DC has had since they began. So when Flashpont happen they figured, why not go back to those days and try to depower out heroes. Oh and put some pants on Superman.
Reading New 52 comics was a little like working your way through a maze blind folded and drunk. Nothing connected, Superman felt more like just another strong guy, they decided that Superman and Wonder Woman should be a thing so Lois was out, Flash lost a lot of the heart it had before Barry came back alive, and Justice League felt more like a first year Image comic than the Justice League. Then there were all those new comics that went no where. It’s common for DC and Marvel to throw stuff against the wall and see what stuck, but New 52 seemed to be printing idea written on toilet paper written while crashing from Vodka and Red Bull night. How about the old characters? Swamp Thing has not been really good since the day Alan Moore walked away from the book and had an interesting start in New 52, but it fizzled in a meandering storyline. They tried to make John Constantine a super hero and head of his own Justice League. It was so Midnight Sons I’m surprised DC didn’t find a clever way to rip off Ghost Rider just to add him in. Even the final Justice League story “The Darksied War” went on too long and felt so pointless because everyone knew Darksied was coming back. He Darksied, you don’t get rid of Darkseid. The the premise went from stop evil to stop the JLA from using their god like powers, to stopping evil again, to something else. New 52 was a big, boring, unfocused mess.
Rebirth or Can You Feel A Brand New Day?
First and foremost the did something I never expected with Rebirth, they found a way to explain the crazy shit they’ve been doing since the whole Final Crisis thing. DC Rebirth is not going to to be a 12 issue series with a bunch of crossovers, instead it was a one-shot setting things up and what ever is going on and whatever the entirety of the story is will be played out in various regular issues. Batman is Batman, it never really goes that bad. Superman, however, is so much better. They brought back Post-Crisis Superman whose married to Lois and had a son. They did a Doomsday story that only lasted four issues and it’s part of whatever this larger story that Rebirth is telling.
They brought back Wally West and it’s Wally West from the days when he took over for Flash, and he knows something bigger is going on. He knows something changed reality and he know someone wiped ten years worth of memories and depowered their New 52 heroes. There are hints it might be Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias from Watchmen. There are some hints but so far DC is being cagey. They did a bait and switch with Tim Drake, setting up his death only to reveal he was actually captured.
Generally there seems to be a company wide pulling back of the ideas they came up with in New 52. John Constantine is back to being the Hellblazer and while he is in the DC Universe (as opposed to the Vertigo universe) he still has interactions with various characters both obscure and a-list. His book went back to being about horror with the occasional affect on the DC Universe at large. Batman has taken the whole Batman Inc. to the next level where Batman has an actual team run by Batwoman. Barbara Gordon, while still Batgirl – and apparently “cured” of her paralysis and still skittish around Joker because of it – is back with Bird of Prey even though it doesn’t feel like the first and second volume of Bird of Prey yet. It getting there. Even Green Arrow has gotten better now that they stopped following the WB show and let him be the mature guy he was always portrayed as before New 52.
Justice League is still a bit of a mess and I’m hoping they straighten it out. Because no matter what else if this is Dr. Manhattan screwing with the DC Universe that is totally a Justice League story. I don’t know where Rebirth is taking us but I’m liking the road they’ve paved so far. IMO, if DC continues in this direction they could put themselves exactly where they were post Crisis on Infinite Earths, and that is always a good thing. Now if only they’d fix their fucking movies.