Silverwolf’s Den Special: The New 52: One Year Later

Wow, hard to believe it’s been over a year since DC’s relaunch known as The New 52. Since then, we’ve seen the cancellation of a few series and the introduction of some others which have varied in quality. Today, I’m going to discuss the series I liked and others I disliked or avoided. I’m also going to talk about what I think worked and what didn’t, and where I’ll be looking ahead as DC continues into its second year of The New 52.

Looking Back

DC brought out stellar talent to make sure that their relaunch soared, including the likes of Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Scott Snyder, Paul Cornell, Rags Morales, Brett Booth, and more. Sadly, even with great talent some titles languished and others downright failed, sometimes despite great acclaim. Below is the list of all the series I’ve at the very least tried (i.e. read at least one issue) since their premier, along with my thoughts. Note that if I only read Issue #0 of a series it is not included. In case you just want to see my overall assessment of what worked and what didn’t, as well as my thoughts on DC moving ahead, skip over to Page 2.

Action Comics

Issues read: #0-13

Superman is a great character, and finally thanks to Grant Morrison and Rags Morales Big Blue got the treatment he deserved! This series has been really great and has met with widespread acclaim. I don’t think its perfect or the be-all, end-all of Superman writing, but it’s still a great treatment for the Man of Steel. Morrison recently announced he’s leaving after #16, and here’s hoping the series can remain just as fun with whoever else DC brings onboard.

All-Star Western

Issues read: #0, #7-12

I love a good Western story, but passed this title up initially mainly because of financial constraints. Around issue #7 I decided to jump in, having just dropped Detective Comics (more on that in a bit). The series gets a lot of praise for its writing, which I feel is above average but not amazing. The art…well honestly, Moritat’s art is pretty low-quality compared to much of what we see today, but the grittier style does fit the source material. Overall, from what I’ve read this series is pretty average, but its worth reading if you like the genre.

Animal Man

Issues read: #0-6, Annual #1

Here’s a series that really surprised me. I avoided Animal Man when it was first released, but for months heard about how ground-breaking it was. So, when the trade paperback came out, I rushed to read it. I was amazed by what I found and heard the series only gets better from there. I eagerly await Volume 2 to see just what Jeff Lemire has in store for Buddy Baker next…

Aquaman

Issues read: #0-12

If you told me a year ago I’d be reading Aquaman and loving it, I’d have laughed in your face. Now I’m regretting any jokes at Arthur Curry’s expense as this series is one of the best DC is currently putting out. The stellar team of Geoff Johns’s writing and art from Ivan Reis and Joe Prado has made this title a real winner.

Batgirl

Issues read: #1

I borrowed this one from a friend, and let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t buy it. I’ve never been a fan of Batgirl, and the writing here did nothing to impress me or give me much desire to see what happened. The art was good, though not great. From what I’ve heard the series has gotten pretty good, but given that its a Bat-family title I’m wary of whether or not this assessment is just blind fandom.

Batman

Issues read: #1-7

Wow…all I can say is…wow. After finishing Volume 1 of the new Batman I was blown away. Greg Capullo’s art captured the best representation of Gotham City and the Dark Knight I have ever seen, while crafting frightening villains in the Court of Owls. Scott Snyder, of course, deserves praise as well for amazing writing and great creative choices. The Court really worked as a way to frighten Batman, and you could feel the madness building as he moved through their labyrinth. My only regret is that I’ll have to wait until March to read the next volume of the series.

Birds of Prey

Issues read: #0-7

I picked up the zero issue on a whim, mainly because the cover was cool and I’m a fan of Black Canary. I was interested in the series at the start of the relaunch, but money constraints meant that I never gave it a look. After reading the zero issue, I decided to take a look at the trade paperback, and read through all of it. I think this series is actually pretty darn good, which is surprising since I think a lot of people write of team books starring minor characters. Even so, I’ve heard the series went way down hill starting with Issue #8, so I doubt I’ll check for more back issues.

Catwoman

Issues read: #1-6

This is a series I never had any interest in, but given the opportunity to read Volume 1 I obliged. I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised: the writing was enjoyable and the art was top notch. I don’t think this is the kind of series I’d follow regularly, but it is definitely worth reading, especially if you’re a Catwoman fan.

Demon Knights

Issues read: #0-13

“Oh great, he’s going to fan boy over Demon Knights, again,” my long-time readers will groan. But in all honesty, this is a really good series. It’s enjoyable, clever, and surprising. The art is top notch, too. Issues #11 and #12 haven’t been as amazing as the initial run, but I still think this is the most overlooked and underrated series DC publishes (seriously, you should read it).

Detective Comics

Issues read: #1-7, #13

As one of DC’s flagship titles starring their most popular character, Batman, you’d expect a great series. Not so. The first four issues were quite good, but after that Tony Daniel’s writing turned the series into a convoluted mess of uninteresting events. What I’ve heard is that the stories have continued to become even worse, so I don’t regret stopping reading after #7. With #13, however, there’s a great new creative team onboard and that single story makes me want to continue reading Detective for the near-term.

Dial H

Issues read: #1

A series that premiered in DC’s Second Wave, Dial H promised to offer something totally different from anything else in the DCU. Honestly, I think it’s an intriguing series despite only reading issue #1, but it’s too surreal for me. I think, sadly, that this title will probably get cancelled given how niche it is, but generally reviews have been favorable of the entire series so far.

Earth 2

Issues read: #0-4 This is the only series from the Second Wave of The New 52 that I actually picked up and continued following. Honestly, I’ve loved it since Issue #1. James Robinson has been crafting a world free of the main DC continuity that allows from some amazing plotlines. The redone roster of the Justice Society is welcome as well, since those heroes seemed beyond dated before the relaunch. Nicola Scott’s artwork is really impressive too; I’d go so far as to say she may be the most talented artist DC has right now. This is one series I highly recommend.

Flash

 Issues read: #0, Annual #1

I picked up this series on a whim and because I like the Flash as a character. Given the direction this series is going, I’m going to keep following it. Why? Because the writing and art go together well and it’s the best non-Geoff Johns portrayal of the Scarlet Speedster I’ve ever seen.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.

Issues read: #0-4

This series really seems like a sleeper hit. When it was announced, I didn’t have any desire to read it or even to really learn what it was about. On a suggestion from a random guy in a comic store I got the first 4 issues (as my first real foray into Digital Comics, no less!). I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed what I found; I may pick it up continuously once the Rotworld crossover begins. The series is highly creative and explores some weirder aspects of the DCU, involving monsters and magic. The art isn’t great, but it works for a series like this. (Silverwolf’s note: I’m currently reading the actual book Frakenstein and it’s nowhere near as interesting as this comic…)

Green Arrow

Issues read: #0-9

Green Arrow…my heart goes out to you. Numerous creative team changes made this title fluctuate from awesome to terrible. I’ve spoken at length about this in the past, but I’m really hoping things turn around soon (i.e. Ann Nocenti gets replaced by someone who can give us a decent Oliver Queen). There’s a rumor Judd Winick might take over soon, and I really hope its true.

Green Lantern

Issues read: #0-6, Annual #1, #13

To be honest, I enjoy the Green Lantern series, but not enough to buy its issues or follow it consistently (thank you, local library, for carrying so many volumes). Even so, the series does offer great art and creative writing from Doug Mankhe and Geoff Johns, respectively. If you’re into Sci-Fi, the series is a great read, though you may need to brush up on your Colored Corps history before diving in. I’ve actually decided to start following consistently thanks to this new storyline starring Simon Baz, Earth’s newest Green Lantern; so far, he seems like a cool character and this “Rise of the Third Army” event looks like it’ll actually have lasting effects.

Grifter

Issues read: #4

OK, let’s get this straight, I never had any interest in Grifter. I bought a single issue because of an appearence by Green Arrow. I liked the issue, but it was hard to judge its quality because I didn’t have much understanding of the plot; at least the art was cool.  Sadly, I haven’t heard anything positive about the series since Rob Liefeld took over.

I, Vampire

Issues read: #1

Thanks to a special promotion at my local comic book shop I managed to get the first issue of this series for only 50 cents. My interest in vampires has fluctuated over the years, and I didn’t have much desire to see them in comics. Even so, I enjoyed the first issue, and have heard great things about the rest of the series. I still feel it isn’t really for me, but I’d say check it out if you like vampires since this series gives them some creative spins.

Justice League

Issues read: #1-8

Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, two of the biggest names in the comic industry, launched this series with the goal of making it DC’s strongest title. While I think it’s good, I don’t think it’s amazing. I have no complaints about the art, but the writing began to feel rushed starting around issue #5. Regardless, it’s a really good example of how two great creators can handle a team book.

Justice League Dark

Issues read: #1

Like Batgirl, I borrowed this one from a friend. I found the first issue engaging, but not enough to gain my full attention. Now that Jeff Lemire’s onboard and characters like Frakenstein are joining the team there’s more promise than ever for this dark, magical-focused series. From what I’ve heard its worth reading.

Red Hood and the Outlaws

Issues read: #1-2

I won’t lie: I regret dropping this title. The art and writing were both good, and I’ve heard its only gotten better as its run along. Maybe I’ll look into finding the trade paperback. Also, let the record show that I did NOT drop it because of the “Starfire debacle” and predicted from the start that the writer was doing it for plot reasons and not just to be sexist.

Red Lanterns

Issues read: #1

Oy, don’t get my started on this series. I had high hopes for the first issue given how much I like the Red Lanterns…but honestly it was the worst #1 of The New 52 I read. It was barely memorable, the writing was slipshod, and I finished with no desire to continue reading. I’ve heard its gotten better, but I’m still not interested in following the title.

Suicide Squad

Issues read: #0-13

This title, to me, is like  young love: it starts out a bit rocky, then becomes amazing, before slowly falling apart and petering out. It got a lot of flak when it first premiered, mostly from Harley Quinn fans who thought her character was “ruined,” but I honestly enjoyed the first seven issues quite a bit. Sadly, after that, things started to dip, but I have faith that Adam Glass has some cool things in store, especially once the Joker shows up in issue #14. If it doesn’t improve after that, however, consider this title dropped.

Superboy

Issues read: #7, 10

Like with Grifter I picked up a few issues because of cool cameos on the cover. It seems like a decent series, and reviews I’ve heard are generally positive. I may go back and check out the first trade paperback one of these days.

Supergirl

Issues read: #0-2

I like the character of Supergirl quite a bit, which is why it was with a heavy heart that I stopped reading after only two issues. I did buy the #0 issue for the character’s sake, but have no plans to continue with the series. The first two issues had good art, but the story just seemed dull. I haven’t heard much praise for it, so sadly I think this is one better off avoided.

Superman

Issues read: #0-12

As good as Action Comics is, Superman is almost the reverse. Like Green Arrow its seen a few creative team changes which have hurt the book and made it feel directionless at times. I really liked a few of the issues, disliked a few, and found the majority average. A new creative team just started in #0, and I’ve got high hopes that they’ll bring out some awesome ideas once “H’el on Earth” begins in #13.

Swamp Thing

Issues read: #0-7

Like Animal Man, this series was another present surprise (and it’s no coincidence that these two titles are connected). I waited for the trade paperback of this series and absolutely loved it. The style of panel layout from Yannick Paquette is nothing short of amazing, and I’ve never seen comic book storytelling like this. Swamp Thing is another great series that I think everyone should give a chance.

Teen Titans

Issues read: #1

Like with I, Vampire, I found the first issue of this series on sale for only 50 cents, and figured I had nothing to lose by giving it a look. Brett Booth’s art is spectacular, but Scott Lobdell’s writing didn’t really draw me in. Even so, I had no real intention to stick with this series from the start, so nothing ventured, nothing gained. As its continued, the series has received a lot of praise but in general I’m not a big fan of younger heroes.

Wonder Woman

Issues read: #1-6

A very strong series that also surprised me, as I never had much interest in Wonder Woman to begin with. The character models, pacing, dialogue…everything is superb! Finally, we’ve been given a strong female heroine that can be admired by comic readers of all ages and walks of life. Definitely give this one a shot, too.

What Worked

Great Creators

DC didn’t skimp on the talent when The New 52 began, bringing out a list of well-known all-stars alongside a good number of fresh faces who gave us great comics. Few comic fans even knew who Scott Snyder was over a year ago, but now he’s given us an amazing run on Swamp Thing and a Batman story arc that won’t soon be forgotten. Meanwhile, the likes of Grant Morrison continued to deliver creative work, showing that his innovation has only grown with experience.

Continuity Changes

Obviously, a lot changed with this relaunch. A good number of people complained, but in the end I think most changes were for the better. At their core, all the characters remained the same with the only changes coming in an outward fashion (such as their choice of costume or significant other).  I think making Cyborg a founding member of the Justice League was pretty cool, and similarly I don’t mind that Superman isn’t dating Lois Lane, and even kind of like the fact he’s with Wonder Woman for the time being.

These new beginnings also offered a way for fans to follow a character without worrying about continuity (well, except in a few cases, but I’ll touch on that soon). Though the majority of people following The New 52 were already comic fans, a new crop did emerge, now more able to enter a world without worrying about titles already in the #500s and beyond.

Staying on Schedule

This one may seem minor and will probably be overlo0ked by most people, but DC did a great job getting titles out on time. Often, creators fall behind and a title is delayed a week or even a month. With the New 52, however, these delays were few and far between (the only one I can think of involved Batman Incorporated #3 and Phantom Stranger #1, both of which came out over a year after the New 52 began). Again, this isn’t something memorable, but it’s good for fans who don’t like delays in their stories.

What Failed

Keeping Some Continuity

Though most continuity got chucked, sadly some of it was kept. As a result, it’s difficult to know in some series exactly what happened and what didn’t. For instance, all the Green Lantern lore concerning Hal Jordan, the other Colored Corps, Blackest Night, and Brightest Day all still stands. This may not seem problematic in and of itself, but it makes new potential fans of Green Lantern become alienated (unless they go back and read these stories, which requires a significant time and potential monetary investment).

Furthermore, some of those stories relied on past versions of a character: don’t forget the original style of Green Arrow helped Hal out during Blackest Night. As a result, fans may be left wondering if these stories happened in exactly the same way, or if there are other changes.

Creative Team Changes

Though earlier I mentioned how many amazing artists and writers came on board for the New 52, sadly not all of them were great. Worse still, several titles saw frequent team shuffling, which was rarely for the best. For instance, Green Arrow saw three entirely different creative teams in only 7 issues. Luckily, the truly stellar teams stayed on their respective titles, but these changes only caused greater damage to some books that needed the most help in the first place.

Looking Ahead

Justice League of America

Words cannot describe how excited I was when I heard the announcement of this new comic and saw the image above. Finally, Green Arrow gets to join a team and be written by someone who actually knows how to handle him! I could go on and on about what each team member seems to represent, but I’ll save that for when I inevitably review it come February. I’m interested to see how this title will play out beside the normal Justice League series, and am excited for the upcoming “Trinity War” storyline teased in the Free Comic Book Day issue. With a great creative team and some stellar characters, this series will either make me jump for joy or rage harder than Atrocitus playing Shinobi 3D.

The Fourth Wave?

By this point, I think most comic fans expect a Fourth Wave in early 2013 to coincide with the release of Justice League of America. I obviously have no clue all the other series will come alongside it, but I really hope we don’t get mired with any more Batman titles; I love Batman, but his overrepresentation is unnecessary and doesn’t leave room for alternate heroes to share the spotlight. It was already announced at NYCC that Jim Lee and Scott Snyder are working on a new Superman series called Man of Steel, confirming a months-old rumor (you can imagine just how excited I got when I learned this). If there is a Fourth Wave, some series will probably get cancelled. From what little I know, hear, and don’t hear, I get the feeling either Legion of Superheroes or Legion Lost (or both) will get the axe given their low readership and only tentative connection to the DCnU at large. In fact, I haven’t heard much about any Legion title and lack of buzz is never a good thing.  Similarly, Blue Beetle  and The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men might get the hatchet treatment. As I mentioned earlier, I think Dial H probably won’t last long either.

Conclusion

Overall, I feel The New 52 has been a success, not only because of sales figures but also because of the great series DC has produced and revitalized. I’ve got high hopes for what’s coming in the future, and only hope what is coming can life up to my expectations.

What did you think of The New 52? What series have you read or wanted to read from it? What do you think worked? What didn’t?

Brett Simon is a twenty-two year old comic enthusiast. This article reminded him of just how many comics he’s read in the last year.

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Silverwolf

Moar Powah's very own Clark Kent.

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