So, the new 52 is out. Was it worth it?
Well, for one thing, they got me interested enough to check out more than half of what they published in a month. Usually, I have maybe 3 DC books on my regular pull list and a few more that I check out in trade. So that’s a good source of adrenaline for the publisher. Now, they need to keep my interest.
My local comics dealer was thrilled at the increased sales but also said, “We’ll see how they’re doing around issue #4.” As for the #1s, every single one is a sell-out according to DC. All will get second printings, even Legion Lost, and some have third (Action, Batgirl) and even fourth (Justice League) printings. (JL is also the best-selling book of all 2011. No big surprise there.) In case you’re really (nerdy) curious, it takes sales in excess of 100K to sell out a comic book print run. Putting that in perspective, the average NY Times bestselling book sells about 3K (but costs about $25, versus $3 for a comic.)
The ultimate question, really, is whether the new titles are any better than the ones they replaced. DC can dick around with characters’ detailed pasts, or whether they wear T-shirts or armor, but in the end if the books ain’t better, why should we care?
Here’s most of the 52, rated and ranked by a Marvel fan….After the cut.
1. BATMAN. From the cover to the last panel, as great a Batman story as any you’ll ever read. He fights the entire Arkham Asylum (synergy for his new video game?) and much of his extended family is introduced as well. A perfect #1 for new readers who know who Batman is (who doesn’t?) but may not know what he’s up to these days. Just brilliant. The only caveat is that if his entire history remains intact, then there’s years (years!) of Grant Morrison lore that makes this Batman far, far older than he’s portrayed here. I’m just gonna ignore that, though. Because I just want good comics.
Bottom line: Is it better? Absolutely.
2. ANIMAL MAN. Loved it. Loved it! It’s a true reboot of the character. I’ll read it in loosie and get the trade, that’s how great it is. Like the others in the top 10-or-so on this list, this deserves a giant souvenir finger #1. The others: Not so much. That’s the main problem with the new 52: A lot of it looks like the old 52, only with less baggage.
Bottom line: Is it better? Considering Animal Man hasn’t had a book in years, yes. Considering the prior book was by Grant Morrison, the jury is out. It will be hard for Lemire to top that run. But he’s off to a good start.
3. SWAMP THING. Can anyone write this character better than Alan Moore? I doubt it. But this entire first issue barely included the ol’ mudman. And I loved it. It was mostly about bringing Alec Holland back into the series. There’s a lot of post-Brightest Day stuff, but I ignored both that series and that portion of this comic and didn’t miss a beat. Terrific stuff.
Bottom line: Is it better? It’s better than any of the Vertigo stuff that preceded–and that means it could be great. A must read, and well-done as a #1, too, because new readers will be able to jump on easily.
4. JUSTICE LEAGUE. I don’t know what everyone is bitching about. JL is supposed to be an action-filled romp featuring team ups of DC giants. That’s exactly what it was. It was great.
Bottom line: Is it better? Yes. JL hasn’t been this good since…Since I can’t remember. Bring your popcorn and put it on your pull list.
5. BATWOMAN. JH Williams continues to be one of the most creative, intricate art designers in comics. The story is still complex, but not so arcane that new readers won’t be able to figure it out. And it recaps the brilliant Detective Comics: Batwoman run rather nicely, so new readers will be up to date quick. (The recap also establishes that they’re not messing with that part of DCU history. It’s hard to keep track of what is/isn’t part of the new 52 universe. I’ll confess, I didn’t buy this. But that’s only because I know I’m going to want a nice, hardbound edition of it. And I’m that certain it won’t be cancelled.
Bottom line: Is it better? I’m coming from a place where Batwoman couldn’t get any better, but at least she’s got her own monthly and it’s (supposedly) going to be published on a regular basis. (I’ll believe that when I see it–this book has been horribly delayed for over a year.) So, no, it’s not “better”–but that’s because it was already just about the best it could be.
6. ACTION COMICS. I bought it, but I’m not sold. Then again, it usually takes at least 3 issues for Grant Morrison to begin to be fascinating. So, I’ll be patient. But I do dig the decreased power set. The most boring thing about Kal El was always that he was completely invincible. Love the scary fiery eyes and attitude. And I kind of like the new costume (the one from Justice League), but I’m not so hot on short sleeves. Makes him look a little dweeby.
Bottom line: Is it better? Absolutely. Before this, Superman comics had gotten so stupid and convoluted that Luthor managed to kick him out of his own book. This is already better. The real question is, will it become brilliant?
7. WONDER WOMAN. Yes, another costume change. But this ain’t just form without substance. Issue #1 was terrific. She’s in London in this version, which feels like a Death-Wish-Meets-Horror comic. The basic premise: WW is like a Federal Marshall for the lady carrying Zues’ baby. No other Amazons appear, but we saw several Greek gods, and she’s pretty damn violent. If I had the cash, I’d be buying this each month—but I will most definitely be grabbing the trade.
Bottom line: Is it better? Yes. Oh dear God yes.
8. FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. This Jeff Lemire guy? He might be pretty good at this comic writing thing. This book reads like your favorite (mainstream) gonzo Warren Ellis book—something like Nextwave meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Fantastic.
Bottom line: Is it better? There was nothing like this in the old DCU–if the new 52 can maintain this level of exuberant, wild, fun experimentation, then I’m all for it.
9. BATGIRL. Just skimmed this on the stands. I’ll buy the trade paperback, though, if it continues to look this good. Quality art, and the story looked pretty good. Looks like they’re creating new villains and new scenarios, so this won’t just be Batman with boobs. You just have to forgive the deus ex machina of Barbara Gordon being “cured” from being a paraplegic for two decades due to Joker’s bullet wound in the brilliant, old-52, Alan Moore tale “The Killing Joke.”
Bottom line: Is it better? Much. This is a very good book, and prior to this Batgirls and the other girl Bats were kinda…Dull.
10. ALL STAR WESTERN. While I appreciated Palmiotti and Gray’s work on Jonah Hex, I’m not a big fan of done-in-ones. Or at least I’m not a fan of an entire series consisting solely of done-in-ones. That was always my big problem with Hex: No continuity, no reason to care from issue to issue. It got a little formulaic: Someone is mean, Hex comes along and is meaner. So I’m pretty happy to see an extended story here. I’m curious enough to commit now to buying the trade.
Bottom line: Is it better? Yes. Jonah Hex was very good. This is even better.
11. STORMWATCH. Miguel Sepulveda’s art is tremendous, and no (I mean no!) new 52 title has more ambition. The freakin’ moon is planning to attack Earth, for Crissake!
Bottom line: Is it better? Depends on what you’re asking. Is it better than Stormwatch by Warren Ellis? No. Is it better than The Authority by Mark Millar? Closer, but again, probably no. Is it better than everything that followed that? Probably, yes. And it’s better than the vast majority of pre-new 52 titles as well. So score this in the win column.
12. DEMON KNIGHTS. I read ish #1, and it was indeed much better than expected and pretty funny to boot. But for the rest, I’m waiting for the trade. Based on the great reviews, it is clearly not getting cancelled any time soon, and with almost $200 in new books arriving in a single month, DC’s gonna have to be patient when they’re pulling cash outta my wallet.
Bottom line: Is it better? Yes. Again, DC is taking some risks, trying to push the boundaries of typical “DC Comics.” And it is appreciated.
13. SUPERGIRL. See, now this is a retcon. From her clothes to her origin, there’s a lot of new stuff here: Her rocket crashed in Gotham and was recovered by Batman; she seems weaker (as does Superman himself, in Grant Morrison’s book)…But is the book any good? I think the jury is still out. Based on #1, though, I’m tempted to buy this in trade.
Bottom line: Is it better? I’ve heard the SG book was good before the reboot, but I have to say: The character was never this interesting to me before…So, yes. It’s better.
14. CATWOMAN. Here’s the thing: I really like Judd Winick and artist Guillem March, this is a Batbook, and it’s been generally well received. Therefore, it will definitely come out in trade. At which point, I will be buying it. There’s a lot (a LOT) of sex—including Bat-Sex. Some reviews have complained about that, but why? The fantastic Loeb/Sale Catwoman series was loaded with sex, too, and nobody bitched back then. Stop your whining. Sex sells. And if you’re a chick in a leather catsuit, sex is pretty much a prerequisite. Oh, and one more thing: Shouldn’t the real controversy with that last panel been…What the hell is with Batman’s stomach? It looks bizarre.
Bottom line: Is it better? The jury is still out, but I’m thinking: Probably, yes.
15. SUPERBOY. One of the real retcons in the new pack, Superboy now has a Wildstorm Universe supporting character; his origin includes Rose “Ravager” Wilson (only she’s not Ravager yet, and might never be) and has several pretty major changes; and he has a brand new costume.
Bottom line: Is it better? I loved the Geoff Johns run on this book, but Jeff Lemire’s left me cold. So, yes.
16. JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK. I really like Peter Milligan and the idea of an eclectic team (John Constantine, Zatanna, Shade The Changing Man), but the more central DCU characters who appeared in the first issue—Superman and Batman, e.g.—seemed to speak and behave really out of character. It was kind of jarring. I’m not sure this book succeeds as part of the new DCU, but as a standalone book with weirdness it’s got a high potential.
Bottom line: Is it better? Great concept, but…Can this really hang together? I’m saying yes, it’s better, though, because at least DC is trying something new.
17. AQUAMAN. Is it pandering that the series begins with a blogger interviewing the titular character? Maybe. Is the art terrific? Of course. Is the writing technically proficient? Again, of course. But I think most folks, me included, will not be able to get past the fact that no matter what else they do, this is still an Aquaman comic.
Bottom line: Is it better? Yes. But that’s not saying much.
18. GREEN LANTERN. Meet the new Green Lantern. Same as the old Green Lantern. Not a reboot, not a bad comic, but not one I’m particularly interested in. Although it’s solid superheroics, it doesn’t rate high as a new 52 book because it isn’t one. The reboot applies, apparently, to anyone who isn’t named Geoff Johns.
Bottom line: Is it better? No. It’s exactly the same.
19. FURY OF FIRESTORMS. FURY OF FIRESTORMS. With Gail Simone and Ethan Sciver involved, I’d hoped for a lot more, but what was delivered was still pretty good. My expectations were also high because Firestorm was one of my favorite DC books of the 1980s, with the “Plastique” issue being one of my all time favorite comic books, ever. This #1 is a reworked origin featuring all the characters from pre-new 52 and adding an edge to a character who generally was one of DC’s more family friendly guys. I’m not sure I understand all the stuff about God particles, but in all, a solid start.
Bottom line: Is it better? Yeah, I think so. It’s better than the average pre-new 52 (and post-new 52, for that matter). It’s a reboot, but I’m not sure it’s headed into a radically different place than what came before, though.
20. BATMAN AND ROBIN. Right about here in the countdown, we’re getting to the mediocre phase. Stuff that doesn’t really feel rebooted or retooled—like someone hit the side of the TV set and caused momentary snow-removal, but I’m betting we’re not going to see lasting improvement.
Bottom line: Is it better? Than Grant Morrison? No. Absolutely not.
21. THE FLASH. So Flash is why we’re in this mess in the first place, and you’d think it’d be a flagship title. But it’s not. Geoff Johns has turned over the writing reins to Francis Manapul, who is a great artist. I’ll say that again: He’s a great artist. But to be fair, I wasn’t a huge fan of this book when Johns wrote it, either, and I the only thing I liked less than Flashpoint was … Well, nothing, really. It was the biggest event in comics history in which absolutely nothing mattered whatsoever. Flash #1 was a decent book; like the other DC heroes, he’s undergone a power decrease. It’s a lot of set up, but not of the origin variety.
Bottom line: Is it better? No.
22. RESURRECTION MAN. I’ve never been a fan of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Lots of folks love them, but I don’t. I also have never read (or heard of) the pre-new 52 Resurrection Man. Now, I don’t know everything about DC, but if I haven’t even heard of a title, how good could it have been? No idea. This is another title I skimmed on the racks. I might catch the trade if I’ve got nothing else to do.
Bottom line: Is it better? Not really. This could easily have been a pre-52 book.
23. DETECTIVE COMICS. See, I won’t be subscribing to this because I’m not a fan of Tony Daniel. But as far as his work goes, this is one of the best things he’s ever done.
Bottom line: Is it better? It’s the same–we’re holding steady. The only reason issue #1 rates higher than several books below it is because it is a very, very good single issue. I’m fairly certain, though, that Tony Daniel can’t keep this up. He’s a hack.
24. TEEN TITANS. Tim Drake is the leader. Wonder Girl is back, but she’s a thief. Some new organization is kidnapping young supers. Red Robin looks gay, but the big news is that one of them actually is gay. Does that last fact mean I have to put this book on my subscription list? Enough stunts. Just give us a good comic. Instead of a mediocre one.
Bottom line: Is it better? This one could be better than anything Titans book we’ve seen in about 10 years. But it’s far, far too early to tell.
25. SUPERMAN. Grant Morrison’s Action Comics lays the foundation: Superman, the Early Years. George Perez, one of the greatest artists in comics—and the only writer before the new 52 who made Wonder Woman readable—is writing about present day Superman. All in all, it’s a perfectly fine comic book. That’s a lot more than you could say about Superman prior to the new 52, when the best Superman book was the one about Lex Luthor. But the character who put superheroes on the map deserves an excellent book.
Bottom line: Is it better? It’s an average book. But that’s better than what DC was doing with Superman before this….
Right about here, the “revolution” ends, and we start seeing books that could have been in either the old or new 52. Below this point, you won’t see much “new”–these are average comics.
26. BIRDS OF PREY. I blow hot and “meh” with Duane Swierczynski. I enjoyed most of his work on Cable/Deadpool, but found his Moon Knight work dull. His work on Iron Fist was a pale comparison to what preceded him, but when you’re following Ed Brubaker that’s pretty much guaranteed to happen anyway. I feel the same way here: If you’re in love with the characters, you’ll probably want to stick around. If you’re not, you won’t. I don’t.
27. BATWING. The only reason this won’t be in the first wave of cancellations is that it’s a Bat-book.
28. RED LANTERNS. Like Green Lantern #1, this was just a continuation of pre-n52U. I guess if Geoff Johns is directly involved in your characters, you don’t have to reboot. Not horrible, but not really a “new #1!” type book.
29. NIGHTWING. But I do wonder: Dick Grayson’s decision to become Nightwing, in the pages of Wolfman and Perez’s New Teen Titans, was based on his wanting to be out of the shadow of his mentor. How long has he been in Bruce’s shadow in this universe? A few months? And if he wasn’t with Batman right at the beginning, and Batman is still a relatively recent character, then shouldn’t Nightwing be like 16 years old or something? It kind of defeats the whole reason for having a Nightwing. Not a bad comic, but nothing radical here. Nothing worth a banner and a new “#1!” on the cover.
30. RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS. Starring a Starfire who doesn’t remember being in love with Dick. That’s Dick with a capital “d,” simmer down. Although she seems obsessed with little “d” as well. Which is sad, because that’s so not what her character was about pre-new 52. Overall, the book is like a more violent, chaotic good James Bond with a crew. It wasn’t horrible, but issue #1 didn’t inspire me to continue.
Now, stuff starts dipping below average. And in some cases, way below average.
31. BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #1. The big change here is that Two-Face is called “One-Face” and he’s more muscular than Bane. Way to take a subtle, cool Jeckyll-and-Hyde premise and make it completely generic. And stupid.
32. GRIFTER. Who the hell is this? He looks an awful lot like a San Diego version of Wolverine. My research tells me he’s from Jim Lee’s old WildC.A.T.s series. His real name is Cole Cash, which should immediately start you running in the other direction. From what I could tell from this confusing mishmash he’s a schizophrenic who hears voices and kills people to silence the voices. When they burned down Vertigo, was anyone looking for this book to rise from the ashes?
33. STATIC SHOCK. Ho-hummer. There’s really nothing new here. It’s kind of like the revival of Power Man over at Marvel: There are some good elements and a reasonably interesting back story, but it’s just not cool enough to engage me. And the writer has already quit. Does not bode well.
34. SAVAGE HAWKMAN. I’m sorry, but the muddy art was a complete turn off for me.
35. DEATHSTROKE. A.k.a.: How to take a really cool character and make him completely irrelevant. There’s nothing here that’s worth your time.
36. VOODOO. The hottest chick you’ve ever seen is actually an alien stripper who uses sex to obtain classified military information. It’s Species meets Mata Hari. I like a good set of boobs as much as the next guy, but that’s pretty much the whole story here.
37. JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL. Pales in comparison to its progenitor. As we all new it would. Pass.
38. BLACKHAWKS. Awful.
39. LEGION LOST. Please, God, make it stop.
AND THE UNREAD MASSES…
I didn’t even bother with these….
1. HAWK AND DOVE. But this could just be part of my bias against Rob Liefeld.
2. MEN OF WAR. But this could just be part of my bias against war comics. And my resentment that if they’re gonna do one, it ain’t Unknown Soldier.
3. GREEN ARROW. But this is definitely part of my bias against JT Krul. Who truly sucks. But at least he’s leaving: Starting with #4, the great Keith Giffen will take over. And the Giffen/Jurgens team is pretty damn special.
4. OMAC. OMAC-Jack Kirby=Meh. If you’re interested, I wouldn’t wait for the trade. Because it might not last 6 issues.
5. MISTER TERRIFIC. I’m sorry, I just can’t get past the title of this one. Pass.
6. SUICIDE SQUAD. From the solicits, this looked stupid. And it is stupid, from what I gather. The reviews and word of mouth is so bad that I didn’t even crack the cover on browse mode. Plus, Amanda Waller is skinny now. Hmph.
7. BLUE BEETLE. Never been a fan, and I won’t be reading this one.
8. CAPTAIN ATOM. Ditto, but with a few more “nevers.” Partly ‘cause it’s a JT Krul mishegass, but also because, like, Captain Atom is just kinda stupid.
9. DEADMAN (D.C. UNIVERSE PRESENTS…). Unless it’s Neal Adams, I don’t see myself ever buying a Deadman comic.
10. GREEN LANTERN CORPS. Another Tomasi continuation of pre-52. The sense I guess is that if you liked it before, you’ll like it now. I didn’t, so I didn’t bother.
11. GREEN LANTERN: THE NEW GUARDIANS. They’re old blue men. Who would buy this?
12. LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES. I have only so many hours in my day and so many dollars in my wallet, so I pass on this one. I did have a question, though: How did X-Man Thunderbird join the team?!
13. I, VAMPIRE. Vampires don’t like Superman and Green Lantern. That’s the premise. I don’t know why I would ever want to consider reading this.