Welcome to the halfway point of our look back on the DC New 52. This week has not fared as well as the previous two weeks, with seven of thirteen titles cancelled. It did do better in that these titles lasted longer, but in the end, they were still cancelled. This has become a very light week for my comic reading, since only Batwoman, Batman and Robin and Green Lantern made my personal cut, though there are a few others I probably should have checked out.
Originally Batman and Robin was a book featuring Dick Grayson as Batman with Damian Wayne as Robin. With the New 52, Dick was replaced with Bruce while Damian stayed on as Robin. This combination allowed the book to explore the father and son relationship between Bruce and Damian. Given Bruce’s back story, it makes for an interesting series of stories. With the recent death of Damian in Batman Incorporated, DC has been putting in a new companion for Batman in each issue, expanding on their relationship with Bruce. These other characters include Carrie Kelly (Robin from The Dark Knight Returns), Jason Todd, Batgirl, and Catwoman.
Batwoman has been less about the story, which I have often found difficult to follow, and more about a crazy art tour de force. With artist J.H. Williams III also involved with writing the book, Batwoman has really pushed comic books as a medium, presenting a story that has unified writing and art seamlessly. Unfortunately, the creative team behind Batwoman recently announced they would be leaving the book. It seems that DC editorial was refusing to allow them to go ahead with a lesbian wedding in the book. DC claims that it had nothing to do with the characters being lesbians, but most of us have our doubts and are disappointed to see this particular creative team leave.
Deathstroke is yet another title given to a character that really couldn’t support a standalone series. Surprisingly the series lasted twenty one episodes. I couldn’t have cared less about this series’ existence as I have no love of the character and no any interest in reading another story about a hyper-deadly mercenary with questionable loyalties and morals. This has all been done before, and done better.
A recently cancelled title, Demon Knights collected several medieval characters into a team, which turns out to be the precursor of Stormwatch. The series opened to strong critical support, but just never quite caught on with the general comic book reading public. It combined some of DC’s darker characters including Etrigan (yet another Kirby creation to fall by the wayside), Madame Xanadu (also a member of Justice League Dark) and Vandal Savage, an immortal cave man. This was a title I kept hearing good things about and just never got around to picking up and now I’ll have to get it in trades.
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. always struck me as an odd title. Certainly DC is no stranger to comics involving classic horror characters, but I honestly had no idea what this book was about. This particular version of Frankenstein’s Monster bears a striking resemblance to the old school movie monster and works for a government agency that investigates paranormal and superhuman activity. After issue nine the writer was changed from Jeff Lemire to Matt Kindt before the series was cancelled after issue sixteen. Frankenstein later joined the cast of Justice League Dark.
The Green Lantern books are the one corner of the DCU that went completely untouched during the New 52. We pick up at issue one right where issue sixty-seven left off, with a down and out Hal Jordan with no job and no money. With Geoff Johns still running the show, Green Lantern has done very well. A new Green Lantern, Simon Baz was introduced in the one-year anniversary zero issue and has been playing a major role since. Johns recently finished up his epic run and has handed the reigns over to Robert Venditti. It’s still unclear where Venditti will take Green Lantern, given how tightly Johns wrapped up the story, but I’m game to keep reading and see what happens.
Hey, look! It’s another Rob Liefeld title that got cancelled. Ok, in all fairness Liefeld didn’t take this over until issue nine, but the number of comics he’s written that have been cancelled still makes me laugh. Grifter was originally a character from Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.S. (This is where the “wild” in Wildstorm came from.). Yet another character who is a black ops soldier turned mercenary, it seems to me that Grifter just lacked something to make it really unique, despite its cult following.
A companion book to Legion of Super-Heroes, Legion Lost follows seven members of the Legion of Super-Heroes that find themselves trapped in the 21st century, unable to return (at least right away). What then ensues in a fairly convoluted and complicated plot involving a lot of minor characters, time travel and hidden agendas (Are you noticing a pattern forming around cancelled titles?). Eventually the characters end up back in their own time, but of course that doesn’t last. I mean, if it did, then it wouldn’t be Legion Lost for very long. The series made it sixteen issues, which is longer than I would have guessed for a series like this.
Yet another secondary character who ended up with their own book, Mister Terrific met an early end when it was cancelled after only eight issues. While I think the character is cool, I can see some of the issues too. The character is yet another genius multi-billionaire who decides to become a superhero. While an interesting character, this stereotype is more than a little played out and nothing special to make him stand out, there was just no way for Mister Terrific to compete. The good news is that when the book ended, Mister Terrific was sucked through dimensions and is now a part of Earth-2.
There are many titles from the first wave of the New 52 that got cancelled that probably shouldn’t have. Red Lanterns is one of the few titles that should have been cancelled a long time ago, but is still hanging around. The only reason I can think of for this series to have survived is the constant crossovers with the rest of the Green Lantern titles. I dropped this book after issue three, which is the second fastest I’ve ever dropped a book. The attempted tonal shift for the Red Lanterns in this book turned me off at record speed.
This is one of the crazier and more unique titles from the New 52. Resurrection Man is all about Mitch Shelley, a man who gains new superpowers every time he dies and is resurrected. It was written by British writing team Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning—whose work on Marvel’s Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy is among my favorite writing. I understand why weird titles like this don’t really work, especially coming from the Big Two, but I really love books like this. There is just something about bizarre stories that turn things on their heads that really appeals to me.
Suicide Squad is a bizarre mix of characters most people didn’t care about: Harley Quinn, and a made-over Amanda Waller. To be very honest, most of the things I’ve heard about this book involve people being ticked off over the changes made to Amanda Waller. Historically, Waller has been a short, heavyset, black woman who is tough enough to make Batman stand down, but in the New 52 Waller was transformed into a much more attractive, taller woman who tries to maintain her edge. This is one the reasons it is a bad idea for publishers to change a character for no reason. There is usually nothing wrong with making some changes, but at they should be done for a point. Suicide Squad has been filled with some pretty quirky and mildly nonsensical stories, but they provide a nice distraction from time to time.
Carrying on a Post-Crisis concept, Superboy introduces Kon-El, a clone hybrid of Superman and Lex Luthor. Originally written by Scott Lobdell, writing duties were taken over by former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Tom DeFalco. The story centers on Superboy from his beginnings as a young man with the powers of Superman, but lacking Superman’s moral compass, since he’s been raised in a lab. Superboy is a consistent fan favorite, and as such has continued to support yet another ongoing series.