October 18, 2011

DC's New 52? Giving comics & characters a facelift . . .

Well, DC is in month two of their "new 52" initiative, in which they have completely, only not really, rebooted their entire universe to start over at the beginning.
Unless the character was popular. In which case, they aren't starting over from the beginning and instead they are continuing with their popular elements.
So Superman? Starting over from the beginning. Green Lantern? They just finished an epic storyline with him, so that still happened. Same with Batman.
I find it interesting how they are trying to make things less confusing by making things more confusing . . . but, snark aside, this really seems to be a good thing.
First, comic shops are having a hard time keeping titles on the shelves. Orders for the second month of the New 52 saw their second issues in the top one hundred sales rankings, side by side with REPRINTS of their first issues.
Second, it seems that people are mainly buying them to READ, not to COLLECT. I'm not sure if this is industry wide, but the owners of BuyMeToys.com, my local shop, said that unlike other "events", people are buying one copy of the books. For reading, it seems.
Third, some of the characters were in need of a little more than a facelift. There comes a time when trying to cover up aging results in something like you'd find in Terry Gilliam's Brazil:
No one really wants their heroes to look like this, even metaphorically, do they?
Besides, Superman has a movie coming out and he needs to be more hip and happenin'. While I don't agree with some of what they're doing to update the characters, the truth is every single one of these books is more accessible. Mostly.
Fourth, Aquaman! Yes, I know, with that one word I have destroyed ALL credibility. But it's good to see Aquaman in his own book. And I'm buying it. For a few issues, anyway.
The first issue of Aquaman illustrates exactly what DC is trying to do. In trying to pull in new audiences, but satisfy old audiences, they start a new storyline with new enemies.
At the same time, Geoff Johns tells a story that introduces the character nicely, and sets up his place in the DC universe. It's a little bit tongue in cheek, wink and nod, but all the things that people make fun of the character for are addressed.
It's a low key issue, meant to bring everyone up to speed enough so that when the story really gets going, readers care about the character. Whether this succeeds or not is up to the reader, of course, but I felt like it succeeded. I want to see where this goes, so I'll be buying the next two issues to see if I like where it's going. It was a good start.
I only bought two other comics from the new 52. People who know me should not be surprised that I bought Aquaman. And I mentioned in my digital comics post that I had bought the Justice League #1 that came with the print comic and the download code for the digital copy.
What I didn't mention was that I wasn't all that impressed with the actual comic. It was serviceable, but it was meant to be a "how we met" story, and how do Batman and Superman meet? Well, they fight, of course!
I won't be buying any more Justice League. As impressed as I was with Geoff Johns' writing in Aquaman and other books I've read of his, this didn't do anything for me. I get that the book is a "how they met" thing, but I'd rather the book had opened with the team together and looked back at the other stuff over time. This is a team book, and at the end of the first chapter there's still no team, just the cliched "heroes meet, there's a misunderstanding, so they fight". I mean, honestly, this plot is the reason I don't like romantic comedies.
If Aquaman comes as no surprise to people who know me, Swamp Thing should do the same.
I love swamp monsters.
Especially in well made movies and comics.
Now, first off, let me say: I have never, ever seen a good swamp monster movie. "Creature from the Black Lagoon is as close as I've gotten, and that doesn't count.
But there have been some very good swamp monster comics. What makes a good swamp monster comic? Interesting characters doing interesting things that involve a swamp creature of some sort. (This is the same criteria I use for swamp monster movies . . .)
So is this a good one? I don't know. Why? Because I had no idea what was going on. For a comic that was supposed to be an accessible story, I found myself really, really confused. I felt like I was coming into the middle of the story. I don't like giving bad reviews, so I'm just going to leave it at this: issue one and two left me cold, and I'm going to give it one more issue. I don't expect everything to be explained in a story, but I would like to have some idea of what's going on. This book seemed to tie into plot lines from before the "new 52" relaunch, which I am not familiar with.
I almost picked up Animal Man, but flipping through it I was reminded of '90's Vertigo comics. That's not a knock. I really, really liked '90's Vertigo comics. But it's not for me right now.
There is a western title coming out, from the team behind Jonah Hex. When the second issue comes out at the end of the month, so will a reprint of the first issue. I plan to buy both, give those a try.
The bottom line: the new 52 has a wide variety of different titles and styles. If you want to get in on the ground floor, this is the time to do it. Most of the titles have first and second issues in comic shops now, or first and second issues available through the Comixology app. I was skeptical, but DC seems to have hit the right notes.
~ Ben

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