About a week or so before the release of Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1, which marked the beginning of a new era at DC Comics, I had a realization about one way in which the publisher could market its new line of super-hero comics, at least to those who still buy comics but few or no DC titles. It struck me that by starting over most of its more recognizable properties from Square One (the successful Green Lantern and Batman franchises being the exceptions), DC was avoiding the kind of story/sales gimmick that has been the bane of super-hero comics for years: the crossover event.
By relaunching and rebooting so many of its characters, DC was essentially placing itself in a position where it had to rebuild its mythology before an event book would make much sense. Marvel and DC have both been milking the crossover event for years, with results that have been increasingly less impressive. It’s essentially a repeat of the cycle that began in the late 1980s and fizzled in the 1990s when fans/readers became overwhelmed and disinterested. Marvel and DC’s latest forays into events have yielded results that have paled in comparison with previous efforts in recent years. While Marvel’s Fear Itself topped the sales charts this summer, the crossovers into other titles haven’t provided the same kind of boost as, say, Civil War tie-ins, for example.
So with an essentially new a burgeoning continuity, a summer event for DC in 2012 would essentially be contra-indicated. I’m not naive: I knew DC would eventually return to the crossover concept, but the notion an event in the next year or two wouldn’t be in order for DC appealed to me. In fact, it occurred to me DC could even market its new line by telling fans not to expect an event for a while as its relaunched characters rediscovered their own worlds before exploring one another’s.
And then Flashpoint #5 hit, and the first hint DC had some overarching, cosmic connection in store was revealed. In that comic, which serves as a bridge between the old DC and “the New 52,” a mysterious, hooded, female, cosmic figure speaks to the Flash, explaining the transition between continuities.
As Bleeding Cool noted, for example, the cosmic figure’s appearance in Animal Man wasn’t part of the original pencilled artwork, that she turned up in the inks. If the Mystery Woman’s inclusion comes at the last minute, it smacks of editorial interference as opposed to storytelling. It could also serve as the latest example of how DC has been scrambling to direct and handle this initiative at the last minute, that long-term planning has been eclipsed by a chaotic execution.
Some have opined, after reading Justice League #1, DC’s New 52 sets out to emulate Marvel, that the new DC Universe is a darker one in which heroes aren’t trusted, as has been the case with its chief competitor’s super-hero universe. I think it’s too early to make such an argument. An Animal Man #1 preview shows the title character being chummy with and respected by police officers, for example.
No, the New 52 has been a way for DC to distinguish itself from Marvel, to show it’s willing to be more daring, ambitious and innovative. But any effort to do so might prove to be for naught if readers pick up on DC’s apparent plans for Yet Another Crossover Event.
Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.