Wednesday, October 5, 2011

DC's New 52: Final Thoughts

Now that the first month of DC's New 52 reboot is over, it's time to evaluate the overall scope of this project and how successful it has been. The New 52 was expressly intended to bring DC comics to new readers, and since in many ways I'm one of those — a longtime comic reader who has never been too interested in DC beyond a few titles — the initiative was at least successful in generating some interest for me (and I suspect a lot of other people like me). There are a few titles in particular from this reboot that I absolutely loved, and a bunch more that I liked well enough to read for the immediate future. Even if I eventually wind up trimming everything but the titles I like the most, I'll be reading something like 10-15 DC titles on a monthly basis as long as they keep their current creative teams and level of quality. Since before this I was basically only reading Grant Morrison and Scott Snyder's takes on Batman, and J.H. Williams' Batwoman (which would have continued in more or less its current form with or without the reboot), DC has certainly succeeded in getting me interested in their wider line.

I won't speculate beyond that for how this relaunch has done for DC commercially, although it certainly seems that they've made their desired impact in that respect, with almost all 52 titles selling out and many of them going to multiple printings to satisfy demand. That's a good sign because I want the books I love to continue, and so far it seems like most of the best titles will be pretty stable for the forseeable future.

That said, DC has obviously hedged their bets here by introducing the relaunch with the Flashpoint miniseries (which I haven't read, though I know the gist of what happened) which would seem to suggest that the status quo could be reset yet again at any point. That impression is heightened by the fact that every #1 issue from the first month contained an Easter egg of the hooded mystery woman from Flashpoint, whose presence in all these books hints that eventually DC could use another crossover to revert the universe altogether or just tweak the elements of the new universe that aren't working. I think it's a bad sign, honestly, that there are already hints of them laying the groundwork for that probably inevitable second wave of changes and reboots.

I just hope that if (when!) it comes, it doesn't interfere with what creators like Jeff Lemire, Scott Snyder, Brian Azzarello and J.H. Williams are doing in their respective books. One thing of note about many of the titles that I admire the most from this relaunch is that they seem to be doing their own thing in a private corner of the DC universe, without many readily apparent connections to other titles. Azzarello seems to be crafting his own fresh take on mythology in Wonder Woman, Lemire and Snyder have roped off a dark, horror-based territory for Animal Man and Swamp Thing to interact with one another, Batwoman remains its own self-contained thing within the larger Bat family, and Paul Cornell's Demon Knights is set in the distant past. Hopefully, these titles will retain those distinctive identities without getting folded into whatever larger crossovers and line-wide stories that DC editorial will start pushing down the line, when the New 52 doesn't seem as new anymore and the company needs some newer hook on which to hang their hype.

Below is my summary ranking of the entire New 52 first month, divided into five categories of quality. The rankings are probably self-explanatory. The great titles are the ones I love unreservedly, the good ones have some room to improve but remain very enjoyable, and the borderline titles have some interesting elements and could either become worthwhile with further issues or squander their potential. The titles in the boring and awful categories, obviously, are the ones that I definitely won't be continuing with, since one issue was enough to decide that I didn't want more of these series. A significant number of the New 52 first issues were simply mediocre and boring, with little to distinguish them, rather than outright bad. In a way, that's worse: I certainly had more fun reading the aggressively lousy Red Lanterns, Suicide Squad and Hawk and Dove than the simply boring stuff like Men of War or Birds of Prey. As bad as those bottom few books were, at least they didn't make me sleepy the way all those generic, forgettable superhero titles did.

1. Animal Man
2. Wonder Woman
3. Batwoman
4. Demon Knights
5. Swamp Thing
6. Action Comics
7. Justice League Dark
8. The Flash

9. Batman
10. All Star Western
11. Frankenstein
12. Green Lantern
13. Justice League
14. Catwoman
15. Superman
16. Green Lantern Corps
17. Batgirl
18. Superboy
19. Stormwatch
20. OMAC
21. The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men
22. Supergirl

23. Batman and Robin
24. Aquaman
25. Deathstroke
26. The Savage Hawkman
27. Teen Titans
28. Resurrection Man
29. Voodoo
30. Detective Comics
31. Captain Atom

32. Nightwing
33. Green Lantern: New Guardians
34. Batwing
35. Mister Terrific
36. Birds of Prey
37. Blue Beetle
38. Grifter
39. DC Universe Presents
40. Justice League International
41. Static Shock
42. Blackhawks
43. Green Arrow
44. Men of War

45. Suicide Squad
46. Legion Lost
47. Legion of Super-Heroes
48. Red Lanterns
49. I, Vampire
50. Red Hood and the Outlaws
51. Hawk and Dove
52. Batman: The Dark Knight


  1. Looks like we line up pretty close on a lot of things. I think hitting those as the bottom three is pretty much universal of anyone with a semblance of taste. The main differences appear to be with Superman, Batgirl, and Detective. A last second reread really has me appreciating that Flash comic above everything else when all was said and done.

    I only did three tiers when I ranked, but here is what I have (reviews forthcoming at my site, hopefully tomorrow if I can get the time to edit some images to post along with it).


    1. The Flash
    2. Wonder Woman
    3. Demon Knights
    4. Batwoman
    5. Action Comics
    6. Swamp Thing
    7. Animal Man
    8. Justice League Dark
    9. Green Lantern
    10. Superboy
    11. Supergirl
    12. All-Star Western
    13. Batman and Robin
    14. Batman
    15. Green Lantern Corps
    16. Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E
    17. Aquaman
    18. OMAC


    19. Justice League
    20. Stormwatch
    21. The Fury of Firestorm
    22. Nightwing
    23. Teen Titans
    24. Captain Atom
    25. Catwoman
    26. Resurrection Man
    27. Deathstroke
    28. Grifter
    29. Static Shock
    30. Mister Terrific
    31. Superman
    32. Batwing
    33. Birds of Prey


    34. Batgirl
    35. Legion of Super-Heroes
    36. Justice League International
    37. Green Lantern: New Guardians
    38. Suicide Squad
    39. Blue Beetle
    40. DC Universe Presents: Deadman
    41. Detective Comics
    42. Red Lanterns
    43. Savage Hawkman
    44. I, Vampire
    45. Green Arrow
    46. Legion Lost
    47. Voodoo
    48. Blackhawks
    49. Men of War
    50. Red Hood and the Outlaws
    51. Hawk and Dove
    52. Batman: The Dark Knight

  2. Yeah, that's pretty damn close! After reading the second issue of Detective Comics, I'm giving up on that one too. Whatever modest promise was in that first issue completely got lost in the second, which is almost as bad as The Dark Knight. Hopefully the rest of my borderline titles don't skew in that direction.

  3. I posted my thoughts on the 13 I read over here -

    I didn't split them up the way you did, but I think mine would go:

    Swamp Thing
    Action Comics

    All-Star Western
    Wonder Woman
    Animal Man

    The Flash (I must've missed whatever you guys liked so much about it!)

    I, Vampire

    I think after issue 2, Animal Man is going to be moving up my overall rankings. I'm digging the WTF surrealness of it.

  4. Thanks for commenting, Jandy! I'm checking out your reviews now.