SHOWCASE PRESENTS: The New 52 – What We Lost & What We Gained

The New 52: When a line got crossed... And then they added 51 more lines.
The New 52: When a line got crossed… And then they added 51 more lines.

(Editors Note: All editorials are solely the opinion of the author, and do not necessarily reflect  the views or opinions of DC Comics News or its staff.)

I wish there had been a better ending.

One day, a group of men—all experts in their fields, which is excellent for a shadow cabal—decided the world needed to end. They’d had quite enough of the status quo and they wanted something new, something fresh, something with “mainstream appeal.” Some would survive, of course. The winners of the popularity contest would be the litmus test for a new age. And the rest of us… Well, we hid in our proverbial basements, faces lit by computer monitors, and we did what we always did. We speculated about a brave new world that might not have any place for us. Some complained, because someone had to. Some put waffles in the mail and hoped to thaw the heart of a corporate villain. But, for the most part, we all just sat down and said “okay, that’s fine, let’s wait and see what happens next, let’s be reasonable and rational.”

I imagine the Science Council on Krypton said much the same thing when a brash young man told them their planet was about to be jagged chunks of jade and they themselves nothing more than dust.

This is an article for comic book nerds. And I’d like to talk to you about the New 52. Which isn’t anymore. “New,” I mean. So I’d like you to join me in taking a look back and a look around at what we’ve lost and what we’ve gained, here on this brave not-so-new world.

Continuity & Underwear: What We’ve Lost

“Look! Look how safe my knees are now! THIS IS A BETTER WORLD!”

DC has never really had a hard reboot. Not once. Not even now. A lot of people would point to the Crisis on Infinite Earths and then onto the Post-Crisis era to try and prove me wrong. Well, those people are like earthworms: they have crap where their souls should be and you’re better off not listening to them because they’re wrong about everything. Post-Crisis continuity was just a moderate streamlining of what came before it. But the broad strokes remained the same and not everyone got rebooted.

Much the same thing happened with the New 52. Except DC didn’t try to sugar coat it. “Everyone is getting rebooted!” they said. “Except Batman and Green Lantern…” they mumbled. “Because they’re really, really popular and I’m Geoff Johns” said a terrible Geoff Johns impersonator who, for the first time in his life, was totally on the money this time.

The problem with pretending that there’s a new status quo except for some stuff is that the stuff that wasn’t changed no longer makes any damn sense. Green Lantern’s whole history is intact? What about the destruction of Coast City that made him go crazy and become Parallax? Who made that happen? And who mentored Kyle Rayner when he didn’t know how to be a superhero? And what the hell was Blackest Night for? Did anyone get resurrected during Brightest Day? Who were the lieutenants of the Sinestro Corps during the Sinestro Corps war?

And then there’s Batman. So he’s still all good right? Nope. The events of Grant Morrison’s Bat-Saga still happened, right? Except now he’s only been Batman for five years. And he’s had 4 Robins during that time. And he didn’t “die” in Final Crisis fighting an evil god. And he isn’t the ever-prepared hyper-bad-ass he had to become as a result of living in a world populated by myths in capes. So, basically, the stuff that made Batman comics sell for the last five years? Screw that.

I mean, really, Barry Allen screwed up the timeline so everything could start fresh and his book isn’t even good. Honestly, the most interesting thing Barry ever did was die. I hate typing that, but it’s true.

I’ve got a lot of gripes with the New 52, so I’m just going to bullet point them in the interest of space:

  • Booster Gold was awesome pre-Flashpoint. New 52? He literally faded away because he sucked so much.
  • Why the hell is Cyborg on the Justice League? I mean, damn it Geoff Johns, at least give him his own book… or a personality. Something. C’mon. Try and pretend it wasn’t a publicity stunt. Even Vibe has a book and you totally made him up on a dare.
  • Stormwatch is terrible. Red Lanterns is terrible. Suicide Squad is terrible. Teen Titans is terrible. Superboy is terrible.
  • Stop letting Scott Lobdell do stuff.
  • Why even hire Rob Liefeld? How does he still get work? Does anyone know? He’s like the Andy Dick of comic books.
  • If Constantine isn’t going to smoke and call everyone a c**t, I don’t care about him.
  • What the hell is Earth 2 about?
  • The goddamn continuity doesn’t make any goddamn sense. Geoff.

There’s Actually A Good Wonder Woman Comic: What We’ve Gained

Sometimes you get a new pair of pants. And then your editor takes them away and draws stars on your underwear because he fears change.

Maybe comic book nerds need to give continuity a rest for a bit. Focus on the good, y’know? And, honestly, there’s been a lot of good.

Superman is Superman again. I’ve been a DC fanboy my whole life and, as far as I’m concerned, Superman is the greatest fictional character ever created. But, as a Superman fan, I’ve found it hard to defend the character since the 1986 Man of Steel relaunch. To make a long story short, Post-Crisis Superman had no real tragedy in his life. He was born on Earth, was popular in high school, became a successful pulitzer-prize winning journalist who married the woman of his dreams, and, if he ever came across a problem he couldn’t solve, he ran home to his parents. So, for a long time, being a Superman fan was hard. I could barely defend the character and I often spent months avoiding Superman comics before picking up an issue at the start of a new arc and getting disappointed again.

But he’s back. Grant Morrison really gets the character. He made him smart and adventurous and just plain fun again. Sure, I hate the new costume. I mean, sure, why not give an indestructible man some kneepads. He totally needs those. But the characterization is right again. And I’ll trade the trunks in any day for that.

The same can be said for a lot of DC characters. Wonder Woman is probably one of the best books on the shelves these days. Granted her revised origin story is full of plot holes, but who cares? She’s actually interesting again! She actually seems like she deserves her spot as part of the DC Trinity. Geoff Johns convinced people that Aquaman was the badass that Aqua-Fans have known he was since the 90’s! And his run on Green Lantern has been entertaining from the start to this week’s big finish. Scott Snyder is kicking ass on Batman. I love Morrison’s work, but I’m glad I can actually pick up a Batman comic without wondering what the hell is going on and having to re-read every previous issue in the run.

Most importantly, DC finally got “weird” in a good way. Swamp Thing is back on shelves and it’s actually living up to the 80’s series. Animal Man is arguably as awesome as he was during Morrison’s trippy run three decades ago. Dial H is odd, and I have no idea what’s going on most of the time, but I love every second of it. I,Vampire was actually a great book, shocking everyone.

And we have a bunch of new readers now. Every single day, I go on Reddit and there’s another new comic geek in the making talking about how they never entered a comic book store before the New 52 started. No matter how you look at it, that’s good news.