Discussions about DC’s New 52 relaunch initially focused on its tremendous success in September and October, but in the weeks since, the focus has shifted in part due to the announcements of several creative shakeups in more than a few titles. Some have interpreted this to be indicative of a higher level of editorial interference, but DC’s management of the New 52 is understandable. It may give rise to some concerns from a creative standpoint, but from a business perspective, it makes sense. DC has undergone a successful rebranding, almost a rebirth. Corporately speaking, there’s no doubt a lot of pressure to maintain that momentum, and the source of that renewed energy and interest in the brand come from on high, stemming from decisions made on a corporate level.
And now, to turn our attention to the individual titles that are a part of this successful initiative. I’ve already covered most of the book in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, so let’s wrap things up with the fourth and final instalment of my New 52 overview.
Red Lanterns: Before the relaunch, I was keen on the entire Green Lantern family of titles, and this New 52 addition caught my attention because of that and because it was being penned by Peter Milligan. Unfortunately, the first two issues didn’t give me a strong sense of direction for the rather unsavory title characters, so that’s when I stopped following it. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if subsequent issues find their way into my home if I happen upon them at a significant discount in the future, just to satisfy my curiosity about how things progressed.
Resurrection Man: When DC announced this property as being among its newly reinvigorated line, I was pleased. I thoroughly enjoyed the original incarnation of the series in the 1990s, and if anything, this much more mysterious take is even more engaging. Despite the inclusion of some of the character characters and designs, this seems to be a wholesale relaunch of the property as well. I like that it’s unfolding in the periphery of the DC Universe. It stands up well on its own, and the dark, mysterious elements are enticing, not confusing. As long as writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (who created this concept in the 1990s) are helming this series, I expect I’ll be reading the entire run — which I hope will be a long one.
Savage Hawkman: If any DC property needed an overhaul from top to bottom, casting off its past history and continuity, it’s Hawkman. Reinventing him as a self-destructive, self-loathing figure in the first issue didn’t do anything for me, though, and I haven’t revisited the new take since.
Static Shock: I hadn’t sampled the original DC/Milestone Media series featuring Static, subsequent limited series or even the cartoon from which this new series derives its title. With that in mind, one could say I wasn’t vested or interested in the character, or one could argue I could be easily won over, having little in the way of preconceptions about the property. The first issue had a lot of energy, but it also struck me as rather derivative. It read like a Spider-Man comic, if Spider-Man had electromagnetic powers rather than arachnid-based abilities.
Stormwatch: I’ve read all four issues of this new title, and after following the story for four months, I can safely say I won’t be around for a fifth. Writer Paul Cornell (who will be leaving the book following the sixth issue — yet another creative change) does an OK job with these characters, but it feels like Authority Lite and has lost some of the edge that made these characters interesting in the past. Furthermore, the opening story arc tries to take on more plotlines than is feasible, making for some confusing reading at times.
Suicide Squad: I was a big fan of the 1980s series of the same name, penned by John Ostrander, and I’ve checked out every other incarnation of the concept since. This entry in the New 52 lineup has come under fire for being too nasty, and gratuitous in its depiction of violence and female characters. But Adam Glass is clearly taking a number of cues from Ostrander here, and his take on the black-ops team made up of incarcerated super-villains has enough in common with the 1980s version I’m enjoying it.
Superboy: I didn’t expect to care much for this book when its creative team was announced, but when I saw R.B. Silva’s art on the first issue, I was quite impressed. I was also taken with Scott Lobdell’s writing, which came as something of a surprise as well. My problem with this series, though, is it’s inextricably linked to another New 52 series, one I don’t care for at all. While I’ve been following this book, I fear it won’t last. As soon as this book and the other title become interconnected (which seems unavoidable), I expect my disdain for the other’s qualities will interfere with my appreciation of this title’s strengths.
Supergirl: One of the aspects of the New 52 campaign that has rekindled interest in DC’s characters is how so many have been changed — changed in ways no one would’ve thought DC would dare to do. Superman, Firestorm, Wonder Woman… DC has shown a willingness to tinker and alter profitable properties, concepts that have penetrated the pop-culture hivemind beyond the world of comics. So when I saw how Supergirl, despite being rebooted from scratch, was left almost completely unchanged, I was disappointed. The creators’ work on the new Supergirl title has been capable, but also ordinary and rather familiar. I didn’t bother with the book beyond the first issue.
Superman: The super-hero elements in this book are the least interesting ones, but fortunately, Perez’s exploration of the supporting cast (including several new characters) is much more interesting. Of particular interest is his exploration of media/journalism culture in the 21st century. While Perez isn’t the series artist on Superman, his influence on the art is undeniable. His layouts have provided a great guide to his artists, who are producing thoroughly detailed artwork. It’s a shame Perez is leaving the book with the sixth issue. I’ll continue with it until then, and then I’ll see how the new creative team fares.
Swamp Thing: In my review of the first issue, I wrote it was clear writer Scott Snyder was following in Alan Moore’s footsteps, drawing upon Moore’s 1980s Swamp Thing stories as a foundation for this new series. My opinion has changed somewhat since the first issue. Now it seems clear Snyder is telling something more akin to a traditional super-hero story. It’s not easy to see. There are no costumes, but we know Alex Holland has elemental powers, and we’ve met his archenemy, with powers based on the dark opposite of the hero’s abilities. There’s still a Moore horror riff at play, mind you, and when I saw my opinion about the book has changed, that doesn’t mean I don’t care for the book anymore. I’m still quite enjoying it, and I look forward to where Snyder and regular artist Yanick Paquette are leading us.
Teen Titans: Remember my comments about Superboy above? Well, this is the series that threatens to interfere with it. Brett Booth’s elongated figures in the first issue were distracting, and Lobdell’s premise — that the world is afraid of teen heroes (instead of all of them) and a secret organization what’s to make use of them, despite the youthful superhumans’ more rebellious nature — just doesn’t work for me.
Voodoo: In the first issue, the heroine isn’t depicted as a heroine. She’s the killer. On top of that, the art is terribly gratuitous. Casting the title character in the role of stripper makes sense in that she wants to earn some big money in a hurry, but there’s still no need to offer so much skin. The reason for her choice is information enough. We know what a stripper is; why DC would include such a blatant T&A factor in its high-profile relaunch is befuddling.
Wonder Woman: When the titles and creative teams for the New 52 titles were announced earlier this year, it was this one many online expected to be the safest bet for great comics storytelling. It certainly stands out as one of the best titles in the line. Azzarello’s focus on the harshness of Greek myth brought an intensity and strong sense of drama to the book, and Cliff Chiang has transformed Wonder Woman into one of the most beautiful comics DC publishes today. Here’s hope their run on the book is a long-lasting one.
And so concludes my overview/recap of the entire New 52 line. It’s definitely a mixed bag, but overall, I’m pleased DC undertook such a risky retooling of its super-hero line. And I’m looking forward to the inevitable second wave of these titles — sometime in 2012, I would expect.
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