When a comic book series starts, it’s impossible to know how it will continue, how it will end, how good it’ll be, how it’ll be received, and how fondly it will be remembered. The first issue is a good starting point (in fact, the only starting point, by definition), but it is not representative of the series. Of course it isn’t. It can’t be.
When you aren’t launching a new series, but are instead RE-launching a series, it’s even trickier. There is a massive amount of emotional investment already made in the series. This first issue instead needs to make an impression on the folks who are already pre-determined to feel one way or another.
However, when you are completely re-launching an entire universe, nay, multiverse (we think), and by proxy every single title that you currently release, and not only that, but you are also 50% of the “Big Two” of comics publishers, this first issue has a fuck load of fans, money, and a huge chunk of the entire industry relying on it. No, that is not an exaggeration. If this goes badly wrong, it could turn people away from comics completely (especially considering the other half of the Big Two has been alienating the super hardcore audiences for years).
So, here it is. I bought a copy. I read it (because comics are for reading), and it was ok. Fantastic art direction, captivating plot (as far as I can tell), and a few surprises. It’s really not very easy to review a comic, especially considering how small and full of adverts they are.
Without giving any story away, it looks like heroes in this new DC multi-uni-superverse are not only new, but aren’t as honoured and adored by the federal authorities as the old DC heroes were (a nod in the direction of Marvel’s universe perhaps?). Batman is there, obviously (and I’ll get to him later), and he is still powerless, and still a massive dickhead. Green Lantern shows up, referring to himself in the third person. Although he doesn’t actually say that he’s Hal Jordan, if DC haven’t made him Hal Jordan, they’ve lost the bellyachers already. Green Lantern is very cocky, and it looks like they are modelling this Hal on the Hal Jordan from the movie, assuming of course that it is Hal, which is a massive mistake. Another point worth noting is that they are keeping the Green Lantern Corps with all of the other assorted Lanterns. It’s not an issue for me, and I loved Blackest Night, but some may raise their eyebrows at this missed opportunity to relaunch Hal Jordan the way that the fans liked it. I mean, this relaunch is permanent, right? Right? We also get to meet Superman, who looks about 20 years old (this is intentional). We also see Cyborg before he becomes Cyborg, and what seems to be influencing him. Perhaps we aren’t supposed to know it’s Cyborg, but as he’s on the front cover as Cyborg, I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet. That’s not a bad thing though, people are going to want to jump back into the DC saddle asap, and so it’s pointless playing riddles with people who have several decades worth of material concerning these superheroes to fall back on.
My beef (and everyone that knew there was going to be one), wasn’t with the issue itself. As I have already pointed out, it’s ridiculous trying to form any sort of critical judgement on one book. In fact my beef is with the statistics behind this 52 title relaunch (52 being a special number in the DC omniverse, representing the amount of deliveries per year that they can try and sell just one more badly drawn spin-off).
Of the 52 new titles, 11 are Batman orientated (not including the TWO Justice League teams he’ll feature in). By Batman orientated, I mean that he is either the title character, or the title character is from the Batman storyline. This doesn’t include Teen Titans, or All-Star Western, both of which feature Gotham City and/or a Batman character.
Of those 11 comics, 4 are straight up “Batman” books, by which I mean the story heavily revolves around him. So lets check the stats:
21% of the new DC lineup is Batman based, not including team-ups. 36% of those are just Batman.
Now I understand that 52 is an important number for DC, and that it can’t be easy to release 52 unique titles. However, I do believe that over a fifth of the output being centered around ONE character, one who will be invading other books as well, is too much. DC need to loose their reliance on this character, and you people out there need to stop buying this character! DC has LOADS of characters! There isn’t a solo Zatanna or Black Canary book being released! There isn’t even a Captain Marvel/Shazam! book being released! Not even a Martian Manhunter solo book. THIS is pretty unforgiveable, and while the blame largely lays with the corporate thinktanks that run the mainstream comics industry, they base their finding mostly on were the money comes from.
This is why Batman is the only decent DC film of the current generation. It kinda needs to stop.
Either way, I’ll be reading the books with interest. If you’re interested, here are the ones I’m considering picking up:
Justice League Dark