Welcome, my friends, to week four of our look back at the New 52. All in all, this turned out to be a week of survivors. Most of the books stuck around, and those that were cancelled hung on for at least the first year, and most well beyond that. What this week wasn’t short on, though, was controversy. More than one of this week’s books had some serious bad buzz at the time of launch. So enjoy today’s post and judge for yourself.
If there is one title from the New 52 that stands head and shoulders above all the rest, it’s Batman. Written by Scott Snyder with art by Greg Capullo, this has been an insane and amazing ride. Starting off with “The Court of Owls” and “Night of the Owls” story lines Snyder and Capullo show that maybe Batman doesn’t know Gotham quite as well as he thinks. “Death of the Family” marked the return of Joker, more twisted and insane than ever before (and with his face strapped on after it was cut off). The end result of all of this has been a slow breakdown of Batman and his relationships. Currently Snyder is exploring Bruce’s pre-Batman life and I can’t wait to see what else is coming.
An all-female team, Birds of Prey has always been a solid second-tier book, and this iteration is no different. Unfortunately, due to her return as Batgirl, this team is missing Barbara Gordon as Oracle. Filling in for Batgirl is Katana, who later would spin-off into her own series (again with the minor characters…). For the first twelve issues the team faced off against classic Batman villain, Poison Ivy. I love Ivy, but it did seem a little cliché to have an all-female team fighting a female villain. The team line up got a shake up with a new creative team at issue eighteen.
Blue Beetle CANCELLED
I’m just not a fan of this particular Blue Beetle. I really tried to read the last volume of Blue Beetle and just didn’t enjoy it. Since the New 52 title uses the same character and basic story, I decided to take a pass on this title. Now if they had done a new Ted Kord story, maybe with some Booster Gold stories, I’d have signed on to this book in a heartbeat, but that’s just me. This Blue Beetle follows Jaime Reyes, a high school kid who gets powers from an ancient scarab beetle. It takes something special for me to get interested in high school-aged characters and this didn’t do it.
I’m going to be really honest here, I didn’t realize there was a difference between Atom and Captain Atom. I kind of wish I had known this sooner because Captain Atom might have been fun for me. I enjoy science based superheroes and Captain Atom certainly fits the bill. He’s the basis for Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen and you can see that in his stories. This volume of Captain Atom changes up the origin story a little and then follows Nathaniel Adam as he figures out how his powers work. There are fears that he might be giving off radiation or be otherwise dangerous (ala Dr. Manhattan) and is denied membership in the Justice League because of it. The series only lasted twelve issues.
Catwoman started off the New 52 with bang. Issue #1 ended with a fairly racy sex scene between Batman and Catwoman. Aside from the general outcry over the sexual content, there was also considerable discontent with the overall hyper-sexualized nature of Catwoman. The lack of strong female characters has been a complaint with a number of New 52 titles, and to be honest, DC’s detractors have a pretty valid point. The next several issues after #1 were pretty good, but the series has been going downhill since the end of the first story arc. I love the character, but I won’t be surprised if this book disappears in the near future.
If you’ve read my reviews the last couple weeks, you’ll notice a pattern emerging regarding second (or third) tier characters getting their own books and those books not doing well and getting cancelled. In my mind DC Universe Presents was the ideal location for these characters to have their stories told. Unfortunately, anthology books like this don’t tend to sell well, seeing as people may only buy them for a few issues based upon what character is being featured. I didn’t realize how awesome anthology books could be until after DC Universe Presents was cancelled. The series started off with several multi-issue stories about characters like Deadman and Vandal Savage, by the end they were reduced to doing a series of one-shot issues about characters. I’m disappointed that I missed some of the issues and will be looking for them in trades.
Green Lantern Corps is one of the first four comic series I started reading monthly and I’m sad to say I’m seriously behind on this book. Overall Green Lantern books are starting to wear very thin. They seem to have gotten away from the outer space adventure stuff that made them great and are too wrapped up in crossover after crossover trying to support a universe full of multi-colored ring corps. I’ve lost a lot of my interest in this title, but I’m still getting it in hopes that it will turn itself around. All the elements are there, if only they can be put together. Outside of the non-stop crossovers, Green Lantern Corps did have an interesting story revolving around John Stewart being tried and convicted of murder. The story line also finally got rid of the Alpha Lanterns, who I felt never really quite fit in the series.
Legion of Super-Heroes is a title I’ve never had much interest in, though it does have a long standing history in DC Comics. Instead of being rebooted with the rest of the DCU, Legion carried on, and instead the writers introduced the idea that the Legion had lost contact with the past, presumably due to the events of Flashpoint. Why DC would make this particular choice beats the hell out of me, but in conjunction with Legion Lost they ran with it. When the series was cancelled after issue twenty-three, it was revealed that the Legion in fact inhabited Earth-2 and therefore all of the previous twenty-three issues had no bearing on the standard DCU of Earth-1. That’s a lame way to end things, just saying.
I have previously lamented how Dick Grayson was only allowed to be Batman for a short time and that his time in the cowl was cut short by the arrival of the New 52. Dick has now returned to his old, post-Robin persona in Nightwing. Regularly linked with the storylines going on in Batman, Nightwing has gone through some pretty crazy thing. Starting when Dick inherits the circus his family performed in, he soon discovers that the circus was a recruiting ground for The Court of Owls’ Talons and that he was slated to be the next Talon. While not on my weekly pull list, this is one book that has certainly kept the New 52 interesting.
Only tangentially related to the Batman books, Red Hood and the Outlaws features two former sidekicks, Red Hood (Jason Todd, formerly Robin) and Arsenal (Roy Harper, formerly Green Arrow’s sidekick) and Starfire. If Catwoman caught some heat for being overly sexualized, then Red Hood and the Outlaws is a five alarm inferno. This book caught nothing but grief when it first came out for how Starfire was over sexualized and lacking in personality. Wonder Woman proved that strong women can be sexy, but this falls short of a strong and sexy heroine. Combined with rough writing, this book has just had a tough time. Thankfully for the sake of the book, Jason Todd has a pretty good cult following, and unfortunately, some comic fans like vapid, sex kittens for female leads.
A traditional fan favorite, Supergirl is back in her own title, kicking off with a brand new origin story. Certainly not an uncommon occurrence in the New 52, but this was one of the better ones. It was clean, simple, and well done. Supergirl is very much the outsider in this book. She finds herself on an alien world (Earth) and is immediately attacked. When her younger cousin, Superman, shows up and tries to get her to stand down she attacks him, believing him to be in imposter. Eventually Supergirl decides she wants to leave Earth, not believing that Krypton has been destroyed, but ends up the victim of scientific experiments involving Kryptonite. This is a book I’ve checked out digitally, and I’m intrigued enough to pick up a few more issues.
In the grand scheme of things, I haven’t been reading comics all that long, around seven years. In that time however I’ve seen at least two volumes of Wonder Woman get cancelled as well as a disastrous TV pilot. Until the New 52, it was not a good time to be a Wonder Woman fan. But that has all changed. With writing by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang on art, Wonder Woman has been blowing people away. I’ve heard such great stuff about the series that I’ve gone out and picked up the trades, which is something I would never have expected. So far Wonder Woman has been a great mix of Greek mythology (the Old Gods) and Jack Kirby’s Fourth World New Gods (at least one Kirby creation is coming out on top). This is one of the few DC books that truly has a strong, female character. Definitely worth checking out, if for nothing more than the interactions between Wonder Woman and Orion.