DC’s Relaunch Starts: Out With The Old, In With The New 52
The Beginning is the End is the Beginning:
If you haven’t heard yet, DC Comics has, as of Wednesday, rebooted its entire franchise, and its caused quite a murmur among the fanboy community (check out IA’s Round Table discussion on the DC Relaunch!). What this means is that the entire franchise is starting with a fresh, clean, easy-to-pick-up-and-read universe that should not just simplify an overly-complicated and messy continuity, but entice new readers with a bold new take on many iconic DC heroes and villains.
This initiative started a few days ago with two comics: Flashpoint #5, the conclusion of the huge summer crossover event, and Justice League #1, the first official issue of “DC’s New 52“.
If you haven’t read Flashpoint yet, it’s a series following Barry Allen, the Flash, as he awakes in what seems to be an alternate timeline. Heroes like Wonder Woman and Aquaman are now global terrorists, Superman is missing, Batman is not what he seems to be, and Cyborg is the world’s greatest superhero (yeah, I couldn’t have seen that coming, either).
The Kicker is that Barry is not in an alternate universe… this is his Earth, histimeline, but somehow it got warped; and it’s up to him to find out how.
The series has definitely used this event for all of its potential value: much like Marvel’s House of M event, DC explored the backstories of these warped versions of its most popular heroes and villains, some of which were interesting; some others… not so much. DC also took the effort to give creators proper time to wrap up beloved series that wouldn’t (for now) get renewed in September, like fan-favorite series Secret Six , written by the critically acclaimed Gail Simone.
Wrapping up the entire event, Flashpoint #5 felt weak, with a plot twist that left me wanting simply because it didn’t make sense to me. I understand it, but what Zoom reveals to Barry about their relationship to the creation of the Flashpoint universe seems to contradict itself immediately. Still, the emotional moments are well crafted, particularly a scene concerning Barry Allen and Batman.
The conclusion of Flashpoint also introduced an unfamiliar entity, who tells Barry that there is some force out there that benefits from a weakened DC universe, and that to save it, the three splintered universes must be joined, finally, as one. Over images of characters from the Authority and Wildcats, Constantine, Swamp Thing and Shade, and over Superman and his allies, the three splintered universes can only mean to DC’s mainstream franchise, and its imprints, Wildstorm and Vertigo. It tickles my fancy to imagine that the “enemy force” mentioned is DC taking a shot at Marvel, although most likely DC will reveal this as some future enemy the heroes face in an upcoming summer crossover event (perhaps Multiversity, next year?).
Justice League #1: It All Starts Here:
DC made a statement when it released just two books—yes, just two books, for its entire company this week—one being the conclusion of Flashpoint, the other being Justice League, which DC has said time and time again is the linchpin of the DC universe. Justice League should always be its biggest book, and filled with its brightest heroes. And while the last few pages with the Flash and Batman give your your taste of the new 52 (through their new Jim Lee-designed duds), it’s Justice League #1 that really throws you in and gives you the entire meal.
Justice League #1 follows Batman and Green Lantern as they track down an extraterrestrial criminal in Gotham. The premise is simple, and yet this issue delivers a big punch in a lot of little ways.
First and foremost, in this new continuity, DC’s superhuman populace—especially in its public infancy—is as feared and hated, just like that band of heroes with scary powers that you may have heard about from Marvel. The concept is similar, but seems to work well enough to give DC a little edge. This is a continuity that both embraces DC’s Golden Age—where Superman is the first hero to debut—and takes a twist on it. Normally Superman has only to hiccup in the direction of an ordinary citizen to make them faint: now, according to DC solicits, he frightens them by being an alien with terribly powerful abilities, and has to earn their trust the hard way.
This is a different DC than ever seen before, where heroes are so fondly loved all of the time that citizens devote museums and holidays to them. While I must admit that saving the entire planet or universe is pretty much the best thing you could ever do, ever, it’s story value gets boring. Read a comic or watch Justice League: Unlimited, and count how many cars are needlessly crushed when a super battle ensues. Now tell me if a regular Joe Schmo won’t get pissed that his prius has been totaled, yet again, by Superman tossing it at Metallo.
Also, we see the heroes react to the general populace not with some outdated (and boring) sense of unerring devotion, understanding, and servitude, but with arrogance or indifference. This is a far more realistic and appealing approach, and I think DC will benefit in showing how our heroes overcome and evolve from their flaws, be it Batman’s detached cool or Green Lantern’s cocksure attitude.
Also, these flaws—when played off each other—worked wonderfully, especially when Batman and Green Lantern exchanged quips, or handled a situation in their way. Also, it just made sense. In one corner you have Green Lantern, a fearless guy given a magic ring that can create nearly anything imaginable, and you tell him that everything in that sector—the entire planet, and more—is his to protect as he sees fit. So when Batman tells him to go back to Coast City because Gotham is under Batman’s watch, Green Lantern casually disregards it. Who dares tell him what to do? He’s a space cop, and everything is under his jurisdiction—to which Batman retorts with an uncaring “Uh-huh” that gets under Hal’s skin more than anything Sinestro could ever do.
Or when Green Lantern tries to guess Batman’s powers: thinking Batman as nothing special, Green Lantern talks down about Batman. Batman quickly proves—calmly and effortlessly—why he is so damn good at going toe to toe with any superhuman he meets—plus he leaves Green Lantern speechless (if only for a moment). The best thing about this scene is that it was written so well without being forced. Writer Geoff Johns didn’t try to show you how badass Batman is or prove to you why Green Lantern is the best of his ilk—he lets their personalities clash just enough to give you more than any unnecessary fight can ever give.
Something else I noticed specifically about Green Lantern is that he no longer creates anything abstract anymore. I don’t know if this was Johns’ idea or Jim Lee’s (“DC’s New 52″ conceptual artist and Justice League issue artist), but when Hall makes something, it’s something. When attacked, he doesn’t make a bubble shield, he creates padded men with large riot shields or forms an inpenetrable vault around Batman and himself. When attacking aerial enemies, he doesn’t blast them with laser bubble blasts, he creates giant bats (as a joke to Batman, I assume) to assault the flying assailants. When he’s traveling with Batman, he doesn’t make a flying bubble, he makes a glowing green jet plane. You see where I’m going here? NO BUBBLES!!!
The conclusion of Justice League #1 also marks a few major things, regarding who the criminal E.T. was working for, and the hero they meet at the end of this issue. I can say with all honesty that I am actually, seriously excited; hell, perhaps a bit thrilled; maybe even wetting myself a little, at how great this reboot may be for the DCU. While I’ve been more than annoyed with DC’s “Crisis/Reboot” gimmicky approach to cleaning up editorial errors and sloppy continuity, this may be the first time when I say, “They did it right.”
I’m not saying all of the relaunches will be golden (though 52 spectacular #1′s would be a pretty awesome feat); but I do see the potential that DC’s New 52 has with this tighter attention to detail, a more tightly-woven continuity, the artistic redesigns, and fresh takes on old concepts. Also, throw in the aforementioned Multiversity project (DC’s fresh direction on the 52 parallel world’s that make up DC’s Multiverse) being launched by comics writing guru Grant Morrison, and this is perhaps the most exciting time for readers—new and old—to pick up a DC title.
(Agree? Disagree? Comment below and join us soon for our takes on DC’s first round of new titles!)