Welcome to Week Two of the DC New 52 in Review. This week’s titles were initially released on September 7, 2011. So far five of the original thirteen titles have been cancelled—four of which died early to make room for the second wave of DC titles. Two of the most critically well received books in the entire reboot, Animal Man and Swamp Thing were released this week, along with one of my personal favorites Batgirl.
Action Comics is a new, ongoing Grant Morrison Superman series. While I am not a huge fan of the Man of Steel, I did really enjoy All-Star Superman, so was willing to give Morrison plenty of room to play. To start, Morrison introduced Superman as a young man wearing jeans and boots, but he was unable to keep this up for long. Soon Kal-el was back to a newly updated costume and cape. Morrison departed after issue eighteen, and the book has been through a couple of different writers. Now it has become a late victim of DC editorial interference.
A cult hit character, Animal Man marks the return of Buddy Baker to the DCU after he spent some quality time off at the Vertigo imprint. Smart writing by Jeff Lemire and art by Travel Foreman helped propel Animal Man to unexpected popularity. After its long crossover with Swamp Thing, Animal Thing has taken a dark turn (from an already dark plot) while Buddy tries to deal with the death of his son during the Rotworld storyline.
Barbara Gordon returns as Batgirl. I still love this book two years later. It’s got some great action but manages to avoid getting to serious. Although the return of Babs as Batgirl means the loss of Oracle (which has stirred up more than a few people), it was a great choice. Very little time was spent dealing with how Gordon recovered from her paralyzing shot from the Joker. This is also one of the most obvious places where DC continuity is not completely rebooted as Gordon was famously shot in The Killing Joke, which is, of course, part of the old continuity. Batgirl typically does its own thing, making occasional crossovers with other Bat titles, though the issues rarely have an impact on the overall crossover story.
A carry over character from the end of Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated, Batwing was supposed to be the Batman of Africa. Given a backstory which draws upon several of the most common problems facing Africans today (child soldiers and AIDS), Batwing was later recruited by Bruce Wayne as part of the Batman Inc. initiative. Batwing fought his share of original, but unimaginative villains through his first few story arcs. After issue nineteen, however, it was decided to reboot this series again; this time using Luke Fox, son of Lucius Fox, as the new Batwing.
Although not as well received as Batman, DC’s flagship title (yes, DC stands for Detective Comics) has still been a good run so far. Starting off with a particularly shocking ending to issue one, where it is revealed that someone has cut the Joker’s face off, this book has been running strong ever since. While it periodically crosses over with the rest of the Batman titles, Detective Comics—like Batgirl—has tended towards its own plot.
Green Arrow, although always a popular character and now star of his own CW TV show, has had several problems in recent years. Archer characters such as Green Arrow and Hawkeye are always difficult to write for; it is hard not to make them look silly in a world populated by beings such as Superman. The rebooted Green Arrow was no different. Many fans complained that the character being written in the New 52 was not the same one they had come to know and love. Starting with issue seventeen, writing duties were taken over by Jeff Lemire and the book has made a pretty successful comeback. While the character is still different, fans were pleased by the re-inclusion of many aspects from his past. This, combined with overall better writing and improved art, have made Green Arrow a book worth checking out.
Hawk and Dove CANCELLED
Hawk and Dove was a hot mess. The series was poorly written and simply uninteresting. Art was done by Rob Liefeld and while it wasn’t bad, it was still in Liefeld’s exaggerated and anatomically incorrect style. Liefeld’s art may have worked in the 90’s, but by today’s standards it is just not up to par. This helps illustrate one of the biggest issues with the New 52. Many of the writers and artists that were recruited for the reboot were big names fifteen or twenty years ago. Instead of packing their lineup with new and exciting new talent, DC decided that their fans needed a trip back in time. I don’t think many people were sad were to see this series go after eight issues.
Justice League International CANCELLED
A spin-off of Justice League (in case you had any doubts), Justice League International was filled with lesser characters from the DC universe who were at one point members of the Justice League, but not important enough to stay on the main team. I was a little sad to see this one be cancelled, since I am a fan of several of the characters, but I also understand the decision. An attempted shake-up after the first round of cancellations failed to make the impact that DC had hoped, and it, too, found itself on the chopping block just four issues later, at issue twelve.
Men of War CANCELLED
DC’s attempt at the small but consistent market for war comics was Men of War. Previous volumes of Men of War had featured many now-famous writers and artists, but this was not the case for the New 52. Centered on Sgt. Rock, who is the grandson of the famous DC character of the same name, Men of War failed to live up to its potential and the very high bar set by other war comics and was cancelled at issue eight, to make room for the second wave.
O.M.A.C is based on a classic Jack Kirby character. Much in the same way that Kirby’s original series was cancelled after only eight issues, so was the latest iteration of O.M.A.C.. The title character was moved into Justice League International until that title was cancelled as well at issue twelve. Although the book was well received, it lacked a popular following. It’s always a shame to see a Jack Kirby creation fail to gain traction with a modern audience.
Static Shock CANCELLED
Static is one of those lesser characters that somehow managed to get a book in the New 52. I’m not surprised that Static Shock and several other books like it did not survive. As much as geeks may love comics, if they don’t have a following, they don’t sell. Rumor has it that Static will make some appearances in Teen Titans, likely based on his association with S.T.A.R. Labs.
One of the original Wildstorm titles (providing the “storm” in Wildstorm) Stormwatch has made its transition to the DCU. A team consisting of mostly returning characters, plus Martian Manhunter, is tasked with fending off the most significant of alien threats that are coming after Earth. While the series is still going on, writer Jim Starlin, famous for many of Marvel’s cosmic comics, took over at issue nineteen and completely rebooted the series with a new team.
Being a legacy book, Swamp Thing has a lot to live up to. Although the book has wandered around a bit, it has definitely lived up to its potential. The first eighteen issues dealt with The Rot and a crossover with Animal Man that, although very good, took a bit too long to wrap up. Scott Snyder’s writing on Swamp Thing is more of the same excellence fans have come to expect, though still not quite as good as his parallel run on Batman. Swamp Thing is one of the standout titles from the New 52.