Thursday, December 15, 2011
Comic Book Review: The New 52
I grew up reading DC comics. No, that's not very accurate. I grew up reading my brother's DC comics like any self-respecting pesky little brother. Actually, I was reading my brother's comic books up until about 2006, at the conclusion of Infinite Crisis. After that, I started buying my own comic books. Okay, my wife bought me comic books, mostly Hellblazer because John Constantine was such a lovable douchebag. So from 2006 onwards, I was kinda out of the loop on the exploits of DC's mainstream superheroes. I only started reading about the adventures of Superman and Batman and the Justice League of America again when The New 52 came out last September.
What the fuck.
For the clueless, The New 52 is DC Comics saying: "What have we got to lose?" They cancelled all their titles and launched 52 titles as first issues. But it's more than that. You see, characters like Superman and Batman have been with us for decades that they drowning in their own histories. If you're a new reader of their books, you'll be barraged with supporting characters you've never even heard of but who seem like they've already had a bajillion adventures with the main characters. Even worse, the DC Universe (and Multiverse) will seem like some kind of Gordian Knot. You, as the new reader, will likely be turned off by this and never pick up a title again. DC's solution is to reset everything. Simplify the storytelling by reintroducing these characters and the DC Universe, rework their mythology for the current generation.
Action Comics, for instance, tells the story of when Superman first started fighting crime in Metropolis. This was just five years ago. He only wears a T-shirt and jeans and his red cape. He can't fly yet, but he can leap tall buildings in a single bound.
The Superman title, on the other hand, is the story of Superman today. He's been on the job for around five years now but a lot of poeple are still xenophobic about him because he's an alien who could shoot heat rays from his eyes.
Justice League of America, as another example, is the story of when DC's iconic heroes first met each other. Everyone keeps asking Batman what his powers are.
So on and so forth.
Even the costumes have been redesigned, mostly by The New 52's lead designer, Jim Lee. Superman doesn't wear red underwear anymore. At least, not outside his long johns. And they're not long johns anymore. They're more like skin-tight padded armor. With a Chinese collar. More on this later.
What do I think of it? Well, Action Comics looks interesting since this is the period of Superman's life that has been rarely explored. The Superman title is kinda meh. Detective Comics, starring Batman, seems darker. As in Joker-gets-his-face-literally-torn-off darker. I'll definitely be following this. Justice League of America is pretty funny, especially since Green Lantern and Flash are young enough to act like idiots. But I miss Grant Morrison and Mark Waid's JLA stories (except for Superman's mullet--that I don't miss at all).
What I really hated were the altered costumes. I mean, padded costumes? Really? Actors playing superheroes in movies get padded costumes because real muscles don't look that defined unless a dude is on steroids and wearing spray paint. These characters are drawn on paper, for crying out loud. The costumes before The New 52 were fine. Everyone recognizes Batman the way he was. He doesn't need fancy seams and padding. He's the goddamned Batman. Every man, woman, and child knows who Superman is when they see him. Giving him those cuffs and that collar is just wrong.
What were they thinking? Well, word on the grapevine is that Jim Lee meddled with the costumes because these new versions will assure that he gets royalties when they appear as toys and other merchandise. I don't know how true this is but it does make sense in a dick kind of way.
In conclusion: Yeah, I'll give some of the titles in The New 52 a chance. Who knows, maybe this will all blow up on DC's face and they can say that this is just Earth 52 or something and then switch back to the old costumes.