One of the New 52′s best books closes with a whimper rather than a bang, as a rushed conclusion leaves little room for the book’s incredibly strong supporting cast.
Gail Simone has long been one of DC’s best writers, but her New 52 Batgirl run has been troubled at best. While Batgirl: Knightfall Descends remains deeply flawed, it is nevertheless a huge step in the right direction for the troubled title.
If there was one person who could save the idea of ‘Babs as Batgirl’, it was Gail Simone. Gail had years of experience writing Barbara Gordon, more experience than virtually any other comic writer still regularly working today. She was extremely familiar with the Gotham City crew, and she’d been writing dark action comics for years. Gail Simone was the perfect choice for the New 52 iteration of Batgirl. But her run has been divisive at best, though perhaps with the way DC treated fans of Steph and Cass that was always bound to happen, and reviews have generally been tepid.
So, where did it go wrong?
So, last Friday, DC announced four new titles for their New 52… and DC fans know what that means: four titles have to go on the chopping blocks. And after the VERY surprising announcement a few weeks back that Justice League International would be the first of those four cancellations, DC has finally announced what the other three books leaving us will be.
Just like last time, I want to talk a little about the books that will be disappearing, as well as what we can expect from the new titles.
To the surprise of… well, everyone who is paying any attention at all to sales charts, DC has a seventh canceled series of its New 52 relaunch: the mid-selling, semi-popular Justice League International - a particularly baffling decision given that fully half the company’s line is selling less than it.
According to Dan Didio in the DigitalSpy article above, the reasons for the cancellation are: “It was selling okay, but we had greater expectations for that line. There’s a lot of those characters that I feel we’ve told a lot of stories with, so at this particular moment we’ll give the title a rest, and maybe give some of those characters a rest.”
Because I have nothing better to do, let’s talk about what this means a little…
Like just about everyone else alive, I (for no discernible reason) am absolutely convinced that I know better than the myriad writers and editors at DC Comics, that my take on the New 52 would have been flawlessly executed, that all the mistakes they made – and I don’t think it’s any great revelation that massive, avoidable mistakes were made in the course of this enormous, ambitious project – could have been turned around if only they would have trusted me.
Which is stupid, of course. The comic marketplace is a vastly different place than it was even ten years ago, and outside of seriously stepping out of comic shops and back into supermarkets (with the resulting drop in price and increase in age-restricted content that implies) they were never going to get their comics into many new hands… and I’m pretty sure that isn’t a feasible goal anyway. No, they did a lot right, including the very necessary move to increase digital publication.
But one possible mistake they made that I think would be very fixable is in how they handled some of the relaunches. Angry fans can and will claim that DC never gave their favorite canceled title a shot – though the relative dearth of this sort of outcry thus far suggests that DC picked the right titles to cancel quickly, and I’d bet the next cancellations will be met with similar silence – but, realistically, they were treated exactly the same as the rest of the New 52, given promotion, in-house ads, equal shelf space, etc…. DC treated Men of War and Batman roughly the same – and that, in my opinion, is the problem.
In a complete reversal of what normally happens to me when a Geoff Johns comic comes out, I’ve actually taken flak from some readers for not bashing on Justice League enough. In fact, I’ve been fairly supportive of what he’s been trying to do, even if I see what he’s trying to do with the comic as being fairly flawed. Despite that, I still maintain that the first two issues of Justice League are solid, enjoyable reads, confidently introducing us to the world and to the characters while setting up a threat big enough to unite them all. Justice League #3 brings that threat very firmly to Earth, but loses the sense of characterization that drove the first two issues.
One of the hardest things DC’s relaunch has had to deal with is the issue of past continuity. Some books have just thrown you into already-running storylines (Green Lantern) or expected you to pick up twenty or thirty characters you’ve never heard of without much of an introduction at all (Legion Lost), while others (Superboy) have given you whole new origin stories, essentially resetting the entire character. And, at least for me, it’s always been better to err on the side of the reset – pretending we know the character in question is presumptuous enough when you’re relaunching 52 titles, but pretending like your entire audience will know the storyline you’re continuing? Well that just seems like arrogance. Green Lantern: New Guardians, which stars Kyle Rayner, hedges its bets, opening with an extended origin story for Rayner, but don’t be fooled – it’s very much a continuation of the ongoing plot from the last few years of Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps comics.
When DC first announced the New 52, the fan community had a number of burning questions. Among them: “What on Earth is this ‘I, Vampire’ and why is it being published?” Even with the awesomely eclectic collection of ‘Dark’ titles DC announced alongside it, I think I, Vampire stood out to people as a particularly odd addition to the new DC Universe. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to make of it either, but once I read writer Joshua Fialkov’s excellent crime-thriller Tumor, it jumped up on my list of titles to get excited for. And I have to say: it was worth the excitement and the confusion. I, Vampire #1 is an excellent new book.
Growing up, I was never much of a comic book reader. I didn’t grow up with Superman, didn’t grow up loving the Man of Steel, and so when I finally did start reading comics late in high school, and get really interested in comics in college, I never understood the adulation he got, his place in the pantheon of All-Time Pop Culture Greats. I thought he was boring. Who cares about an hero who can’t get hurt? Who can do everything?
I’m probably the wrong person to review Grifter #1. Popular opinion, both on the ‘net and among our writers, seems that Grifter is bad. I disagree: I think Grifter #1 is an exciting, genre bending superhero story the likes of which we rarely see on the shelves. One part The Parallax View, one part Invasion of the Body Snatchers and one part standard superhero tale, Grifter #1 poses a fascinating question – what would happen if you put a minor, street-level superhero in an old-school conspiracy thriller? Read on to find out…