It’s been long enough. The new-car smell has wore off. Every DC comic has hit its seventh or 8th issue by now (at least, those that weren’t already canceled), and I have to decide if I should still use the phrase “New 52.”
I’ve read a lot of the new comics from DC–not as many as I’d like to, but enough to get a general sense of what this new rebooted universe is. Wait, let me take that back. I’ve read enough to know the new DC universe makes very little sense. I’m not a stranger to complexity; I’m on the fourth book of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series and I can keep track of who’s a Tully and who’s a Tyrell, and I can trace the kings of Westeros back four generations, and yet when I pick up a DC comic, I can’t figure out even the simple life of Robin. Did he have a fling with Starfire, was he a Titan, let alone a Teen Titan?
It’s hard to read a DC comic without being riddled with questions. Now, my questions aren’t about the individual comics themselves, but with the larger universe and the continuity. If I ignore those questions, I can enjoy the comics for what they are, but if I stop and wonder how Action Comics relates to JLA I become nostalgic for the old DC universe.
Of all of the new DC comics I’ve read, I’ll have to say that, to my surprise, it’s the B-List comics I’m enjoying the most. I’ve read a handful of Batman, JLA, and Green Lantern comics that didn’t particularly faze me (I hate to admit it, but even one or two issues of Action Comics by my favorite comic writer Grant Morrison didn’t do much for me), and yet I’ve read issues of lesser-known titles like Nightwing, Batwoman, Justice League International, and Batgirl that have amused me to no end.
Another big perk of the DC Universe: women have better roles than ever before, in my opinion. In old Batgirl comics, writers always insisted on having Batgirl stop in the middle of a fight to complain of a run in her stockings. In Gail Simone’s Batgirl, you wouldn’t possibly expect such a thing to happen, unless it was executed in a glib, ironic way. Also, it’s no longer a rule that female superheroes have to be scantily-clad. Batgirl and Batwoman’s costumes show no cleavage at all (although the same can’t be said of other newly reimagined characters like Starfire or Harley Quinn, but then, they were always more geared towards nerdy dudes).
So I guess my general prognosis would be this: the comics themselves are good, but the concept of a shared universe is weak. That’s a shame too, since it was often the DC Universe itself that drove me to read countless comics. In the old days, I’d read any DC comic just to see how, say, the events in The Atom might affect what’s going in Green Lantern–I never really wanted to read The Atom, but I was compulsive when it came to understanding the fictional universe. Now, for better or worse, that desire is gone.
What is your opinion of the “new” DC universe?