Review: DC COMICS: THE NEW 52 10TH ANNIVERSARY DELUXE EDITION
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Artists: Oclair Albert, Sami Basri, Rick Bryant, Greg Capullo, Cliff Chiang, Travel Foreman, Jonathan Glapion, Dan Green, Mikel Janin, Jim Lee, Francis Manapul, Rags Morales, Moritat, Diogenes Neves, Joe Prado, Ivan Reis, Scott Williams
Colours: Brad Anderson, Ulisies Arreola, Brian Buccellato, Gobo, Jessica Kholinne, Lovern Kindzierski, Marcelo Maiolo, FCO Plascencia, Rod Reis, Alex Sinclair, Matthew Wilson
Letters: Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt, Pat Brosseau, Sal Cipriano, Jared K. Fletcher, Rob Leigh, Nick J. Napolitano, Richard Starkings
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
DC Comics: The New 52 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition: In 2011 DC made its boldest move in 25 years with the announcement of the New 52–reinventing its fictional universe from the ground up, and restarting its publishing line with 52 new and relaunched series, each starting with a fresh #1. Ten years later, DC returns to that exciting era with a new collection of the New 52’s greatest first issues.
This collection showcases the breadth of the New 52’s creative diversity, including Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s new origin for the Justice League, the start of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s storied run on Batman, the intense mythological drama of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman, Grant Morrison and Rags Morales taking Superman back to his roots, and the unpredictable body horror of Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman’s Animal Man. This volume collects All Star Western #1, Animal Man #1, Aquaman #1, Justice League Dark #1, Demon Knights #1, Voodoo #1, Justice League #1, Wonder Woman #1, Action Comics #1, Batman #1, and The Flash #1.
In 2011, DC Comics took an unprecedented and extremely risky move of relaunching their entire line. Many titles were restarted at issue #1, but others were cancelled outright, and a number of new titles were introduced. And DC’s characters received a visual overhaul by co-publisher Jim Lee. DC called this relaunch the New 52, and to say it was controversial would be a massive understatement.
This is mainly because the relaunch was accompanied by a massive continuity reboot. Some foundational heroes and teams had their backstories majorly retconned. While a few characters like Batman and Green Lantern went mostly unscathed, others faced massive changes. Superman now had never married Lois. Cyborg was now a founding member of the Justice League. The original Teen Titans had never formed. The timeline had been shortened, and many character backstories were altered to fit, such as Dick Grayson’s tenure as Robin having been reduced to a couple years in his late teens. And some characters just disappeared, like Wally West, who later reappeared as a radically different character.
And now DC revisits this period of their history with DC Comics: The New 52 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition. This gorgeous hardcover book collects a representative selection of first issues from the New 52’s first wave of titles. These represent the most significant issues: three to represent DC’s Trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman as well as the tentpole team book, Justice League. The rest represent some of the best-received titles such as All-Star Western, Animal Man, and Demon Knights. It also features extensive bonus features. There are reprints of various marketing materials, Jim Lee’s character designs.
One notable item is a document outlining the original plan for the relaunch. This plan lists the proposed titles, and a brief note about the “high concept” behind each. It’s fascinating to see which of these were kept, which were tweaked, and which were dropped altogether.
Where most books have an introduction that can be easily skipped, this is one case where I would recommend not skipping past it. Dan DiDio writes the introduction. His introduction attempts to put the New 52 into its proper historical context. He tells us of the disastrous state of the comics industry when he and Lee took over their roles as co-publishers. He also tells us of their mandate to “be bold”. This set the stage for a risky move – but one that proved wildly successful at first.
And perhaps in retrospect, it was necessary for DC to survive and get to where they are today. Rereading these stories, I was surprised to see how much has changed during the Rebirth era. Direct comparison highlights that the DCU of 2021 is a lot closer to the pre-Flashpoint DCU than to the New 52 DCU.
The reprinted issues are beautiful. DC had a remarkable assemblage of artists for the New 52 relaunch and many of them are featured here, including Jim Lee himself. And the writers in this volume are some of the biggest talents in the business like Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire, Grant Morrison, and Scott Snyder.
While I mostly agree with DiDio’s assessment of the New 52, I think he does tend to paint a picture that’s a bit too rosy. He seems to be exaggerating the successes while downplaying the flaws of his relaunch. It may have been a necessary move, and it may also have been largely successful. But there were some large problems with the venture. While the collars of the costumes were one thing that garnered ire from readers, the redesigned costumes were just the tip of the iceberg. Happily, DC has fixed a lot of these problems during the Rebirth era.
Also, the selection of titles reprinted in the New 52 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition seem somewhat cherry-picked to show the relaunch in its best light. Action Comics and Justice League reflect some of the most egregious changes to continuity. But the rest are the relaunch’s success stories. New readers reading this book might not understand why the New 52 was so divisive in the first place.
DC Comics: The New 52 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition is a beautiful book looking back at this controversial, yet still important era in DC history. If you loved The New 52 , this should be a fond look back, but even if you hated it might find some value in it. And it’s a good chance for new readers to explore this particular milestone in DC’s history.