Friends, we have made it to the end. Welcome to Week 5, our final week looking back on DC’s New 52. This final week held up pretty well. While there are a few cancelled titles, they held on long than most titles did. Full of vintage characters, from Aquaman to Hawkman, this was a week packed with heroes from the Golden and Silver Age. For the most part it was pretty good for these guys, but not all of them did well.
For decades now there has been a small but loyal group of people who love westerns. Be it in movies, books, or even comics, the wild spirit of the west captures the imagination of the romantic in many fans. All-Star Western features the adventures of Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham (founder of the famous Arkham Asylum) in an Old West Gotham City. While I don’t count myself a western fan, I can see how this book would be fun. The Old West is a great setting for both drama and great action adventure, two things at which comics excel. All-Star Western has also included groups of one to three issue mini-stories after the main story focus on side characters and help expand DC’s Old West universe.
“I don’t talk to fish”. That’s my biggest take away from Aquaman. In all seriousness, though, Aquaman has actually turned out to be a pretty good series. Aquaman isn’t exactly known for being a real heavy hitter and he is often mocked for the perceived lameness of his abilities. What this book has done best is address those naysayers in issue #1 and move on as if it never happened. He has gotten some good stories in this volume, including a crossover series with Justice League (despite essentially being a retelling of a previous Aquaman story). It also helps that the creative team (Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis) running the show is the same that helped rejuvenate Green Lantern a few years ago.
Batman: The Dark Knight works with some of Batman’s lesser villains and introduces a new one in the form of White Rabbit. The second story arc featured Dark Knight Rises villain Bane. Unfortunately this title has been plagued by repeated creative team changes, mostly in the writing department. Originally David Finch was supposed to be on the book full time, but it quickly became apparent that this wouldn’t be the case, as guest writers began appearing with increasing frequency. Personally I think second-tier books like this are a great chance to have fun with characters that don’t often appear in main books. These books could be something really fun and special if DC Editorial would just let go of the reins a little bit.
I’m really getting tired of series about super secret special ops teams. The cancellation of Blackhawks after eight issues tells me that I am not alone in this feeling. In its eight issues, Blackhawks took some pretty weird turns. Plot points included sentient techno-organic machines, nanites, satellites, and the maiming of one of the team. This book lacked any treads to ground the characters, who are supposed to be human, in reality.
There is something about The Flash that DC Comics fans love. I don’t quite get it, but I have tons plenty of respect for it. Once again, fan favorite Barry Allen has taken up the mantle of The Flash. This series starts off with a less experienced Flash who is still getting to know his powers, especially his connection to the Speed Force. The series has also tapped into Barry’s past, adding new depth to the story of his mother’s death. Given that Flash was the major focus of Flashpoint, it’s no surprise that Flash is now one of the key players in the post-Flashpoint reboot.
The Fury of Firestorm is a different take on Firestorm, which is traditionally a combination of two characters, Ronnie Raymond and Prof. Stein. This time around, Ronnie combines with fellow high school student Jason Rusch to become the Fury. This happens only after both of them are turned into Firestorm and they fight each other for a while. While I didn’t read this book, I’ve always appreciated Firestorm and his powers. Being able to create anything by just rearranging atomic structure is not only cool, but historically writers have taken this as an opportunity to include some real science into the comics by using actual chemical equations. The Fury of Firestorm made it to issue twenty, although it went through some creative team changes along the way.
This book is everything that has gone wrong with Green Lantern all wrapped up in one neat little package. Green Lantern: New Guardians is jam packed with the entire spectrum of colored rings, Guardians, and Kyle Rayner, all of which are the least interesting parts of the Green Lantern franchise. This was the one new Green Lantern series I was not looking forward to. So far the series has dragged itself along from crossover to crossover without really doing much of any consequence.
A title based on an old backup story, I, Vampire managed to make it to issue nineteen before being cancelled. For what it is, that’s a pretty respectable run. A 600 year old vampire named Andrew Bennett is battling his former lover, Mary, Queen of Blood and her army of vampires in Gotham City, leading to a team-up with Batman. Eventually, Bennett accidentally releases Cain, the first vampire, and he takes over Mary’s vampire army. This lead to a small crossover with Justice League Dark and was used for the series wind down. Fortunately for I, Vampire the cancellation was announced in advance so the series was given a chance to actually end instead of just stopping mid-story like so many other books do.
Justice League Dark is another example of how to use lesser characters to great effect. Justice League Dark is a team of supernatural specialists assembled after Enchantress managed to take down the Justice League (Superman never was very good against magic). This is a title I keep hearing good things about. Working from the shadows has allowed this team to crossover and intermix with several other titles and characters, as well as pickup a couple characters that couldn’t support their own titles. Most recent, Justice League Dark participates providing the sparks behind the “Trinity War” event. Justice League Dark has also become the home of long time Vertigo character John Constantine (Hellblazer), who is now the leader of the team.
Hawkman is one of those characters that has gone through a couple, vastly different origin stories. My personal favorite is the one in which he is the resurrected ancient Egyptian pharaoh Khufu. The Savage Hawkman uses the other, much more common one of Hawkman being from the planet Thanagar. The one common thread is that Hawkman is either a museum curator or an archeologist, and I like that. Billionaire playboys are a dime a dozen in comics, but nerd academic heroes are much fewer and farther between. This time around, however, Hawkman is unaware of his alien origin and DC didn’t even explain it until the first anniversary zero issue. Unfortunately for this Golden Age hero, he got cancelled after issue twenty. Fortunately, Hawkman lives on in Justice League of America.
I’m not much of a Superman fan, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize something good when it comes around. Friends of mine who are Superman fans are enjoying this book, and for good reason. Writing by comic veteran George Perez provides a solid story in which the Man of Steel can exist. The only complaint I’ve heard about the series is that they have been focusing on Superman’s alien nature, and, while this is a legitimate take on him, a number of people, don’t see this as the best approach to the character. The second story line brings in a connection to the Daemonites, which is making me think that I should do a little more research into who these guys are.
The only surviving title of the Young Justice group, Teen Titans is a long standing title that has managed to hold its own. Featuring several returning cast members like Superboy, Wonder Girl, and Kid Flash as well as two new heroes, Teen Titans starts off with the old standard, assemble the team. These can be lots of fun, especially if you’re already familiar with the team because then you can see what they do that’s new and different with the characters in order to get them to join (or sometimes not join) the team. As the sole surviving series in its family, Teen Titans must be doing something right.
We now have (or had) a superhero who’s day job was “exotic dancer.” For those of you who don’t read between the lines, that means stripper. With elements like this, I’m not really surprised that Voodoo only made it to issue twelve. While I’m trying not to beat a dead horse here, this is the final example, from the first wave at least, of a second-tier (or more realistically third or lower) character who was given a book and just didn’t have the following to support it. There were plenty of books that deserved a slot in the first wave, and didn’t get one because of books like this. Voodoo is a Wildstorm character who is half human, half Daemonite who is working as a spy for the Daemonites. After learning she is really a clone, Voodoo turns on the Daemonites, but then turns back when she’s offered a promotion. If it weren’t so close to actual human nature, it’d be terrifyingly stupid. For now it’s just regular stupid.
Well thanks for joining me for the last six week while we took a look back at everything DC’s New 52 has been doing. I’ve had tons of fun writing this and it exposed me to some stuff I originally missed. As it stands I have several trades on order at one of my local stores so I can catch up. In the end, if you were a Batman, Superman or Green Lantern book, the last two years treated you pretty damn good. On the other side however, if you were a lesser known character, a more experimental book, or in the Young Justice group, you got beaten down hard. I’d like to think that DC has finally figured out what works and what doesn’t, but the flow of news out of there is not convincing. Sure it has slowed down, but it seems that every time there is a big announcement, it’s because of some miss-step by DC Editorial.