I went into this espousing the need for a new lick of paint for DC Comics. I felt that this would be ‘kill or cure’ but in truth the paint isn’t the colour I’m too keen on and it’s both kill & cure. A lot of series have been revitalised or rejuvenated. The problem is that some titles have become worse, a lot are closer to the style of comics in the 1990’s, which isn’t a good thing.
When I first went into my local comic shop for Justice League #1, I was intent on avoiding all spoilers. I wanted to go in with no reactions from the staff, customers or the internet. One thing the manager said was, “They’re writing it for the recommended age on the book,” and that’s very much the truth of the whole line. At least, a lot of writers are aiming for teenagers, or perhaps their teen selves. Teenagers are more savvy now than they were in the past, and much like the gender argument, writing with a set gender or age in mind is often destructive. Most female comic reviewers get pissed off when a comic panders to the juvenile teenage boy crowd (Red Hood & The Outlaws) just as much as they do when it tries too hard to court them. Playing to a teenage audience isn’t what’s happened here, as the juvenile mindset of the worst comics is something people of any age will get annoyed with.
I lied about my nationality to get in on the Nielson questionnaire about DC and one of the things I mentioned was that ‘all ages’ doesn’t mean playing down to kids. The Paul Tobinverse series of Marvel comics are great for people of any age. When I was a kid, X-Men and Legion comics had terrible things happen to characters, and wonderful things, and it wasn’t trying to court the love of the gross-out which teenage boys are supposed to hanker for. It wasn’t talking down to me, and as an adult, can be re-experienced and enjoyed.
I said in the ‘any other comments’ section that DC won me over with Infinite Crisis, they won me over with the Post-Zero Hour Legion, I know they’re capable of good things, and I want them to win me back over, I want them to aim higher as I know they’re better than a lot of these titles from September.
Anyway, that’s my rant over about the event as a whole. Now for my DC Comics pull-list out of the books I’ve reviewed:
Action Comics – I’m a Grant Morrison apologist, and like hot-tempered idealist Superman.
Animal Man – Creepy weird.
Aquaman – I’m sorry Arthur, I’m so sorry I made fun of you.
Batman – Fantastic.
Batwoman – I loved the old DCU version and this title continues that.
Demon Knights – I think it’s going to be the new Secret Six.
Firestorm – I must get at least one Simone title and this one’s the better. Shockingly.
Flash – Gorgeously drawn and well-written.
Justice League – It’s taking time, but Johns is a good writer and the banter was good.
Justice League Dark – Confusing but interesting.
Justice League International – Old school superhero action. The vibe of the good 90’s book.
Stormwatch – I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt through it’s links to Demon Knights and Paul Cornell generally being awesome.
Superman – As busy as the title was, it was a solid read.
Swamp Thing – Like Animal Man, it’s creepy and uses the ‘hero’ genre to do things away from the usual style.
Wonder Woman – I’m pleased to finally have a Wonder Woman title I enjoyed, as I felt I should have some love for this member of the Trinity, but nothing interested me until now.
BUYING BECAUSE I’M A FILTHY ADDICT WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER:
Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps and Green Lantern: The New Guardians – All fall into the camp of, “Because I’ve been buying Green Lantern since 2004”.
Legion Lost & Legion of Super-Heroes – Because I’ve bought Legion Comics regularly since 1997 and want the glory of… well, every version of the Legion until their recent deboot to return.
BUYING FOR ONE MORE MONTH AS THEY COULD IMPROVE:
Batgirl – It’s Gail Simone writing the woman who’s been her voice, so it must get better.
Batman & Robin – I’m sure I was a Peter Tomasi fan. I’m sure…
Batwing – I’m uncertain, but think this will be a good title.
Blue Beetle – Prove to me that I need another Blue Beetle origin story.
Catoman – Maybe? I don’t know. It could undo the damage of issue one’s end, and until then it was silly, sexy fun. This title needs to learn that blatant doesn’t equal sexy.
Frankenstein & The Agents of SHADE – I cannot remember what happened, but I like it.
I, Vampire – Why do you exist, comic? Why?
Mr Terrific – Has potential.
OMAC – It’s silly and I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing.
Superboy – Smacks of a good Wildstorm title, not just because of Fairchild’s presence.
Supergirl – If she’s a roguish wild card who doesn’t play by the rules and is every bit as good as her brother (phew, I clichéd myself out there) then I’ll ditch it. Nick Spencer and Sterling Gates were good on the title and humanised her, this title may do the same or ruin her until her next rebooted crash landing on Earth.
Teen Titans – Do I like this as it’s my only hit of Tim Drake and it’s not Red Hood?
Batman: The Dark Knight – A poor man’s Batman. Which is running at the same time as this comic.
Birds of Prey – Sorry, but I’ve got too many titles on my pull list.
Detective Comics – Tony Daniel has not improved with this relaunch.
Red Lanterns – The first Lantern comic to fall from my list. Will others follow?
Savage Hawkman – Inoffensive but uninteresting
Suicide Squad – Unlikeable versions of characters I’ve liked being mistreated and killing dudes while shouting, screaming or screwing each other over. Sigh.
Voodoo – Could be the start of a good title, but showed no potential.
BURN MY EYES OUT WITH MATCHES:
Red Hood & The Outlaws
WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN?
Well There’s a lot more that’s up in the air than actually bad. Many of these comics are the first part of a longer first arc. Writing for an eventual collected edition is expected, but often these titles don’t pull the reader in as easily.
In a company-wide relaunch there couldn’t have been 52 success stories. There are some, though, and that’s the main thing. I guess “kill or cure” was a bit short sighted. A Grant Morrison Action Comics of Jeff Limuire Animal Man isn’t comparable to Red Hood, Catwoman, Voodoo or even the blandly unimpressive Legion of Super-Heroes.
I have fifteen definite buys and a begrudging five buys, making one more title than I bought from DC on a regular basis. With a bunch which I’ll check out for one more issue to see if they’re worth adding to my pull list, I guess that makes it financially a success.
There’s been a lot more negative press than positive, even if you ignore grognards who hate anything different from their favourite run on the comic. That’s not great, and I’ll be interested in seeing what DC’s reaction is.
So far a lot of creators have been shuffled off and there’s talk of NDAs stopping any message coming out of DC. That sends a message of its own. There was a reaction about the Starfire sex object problem which was more a response to a review of Red Hood given by a seven year old girl. DC’s take was that it was a T rated book and therefore not for her. I get that they gave us a technically correct answer, but at the same time it’s not a defence for the poor quality of the book and the exploitative take on the character.
I don’t want things to reverse to what they were before as that would actually make things worse and the ongoing narrative of the titles even more muddied (something I’ll be covering soon with the X-Men titles). Hopefully in about six months sales figures will stabilise for the titles and we’ll be able to see what’s a success or failure, what DC needs to change and what’s awesome about them.
To repeat my statement earlier, I want them to win me over. I want them to aim higher and be the fantastic company I know they can be.