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Thinking About the DCnU: The Titles

July 7, 2011

Continuing with my discussion of the DCnU, let’s go over the new titles. In keeping with the 52-universe multiverse concept, DC Comics has announced 52 brand new #1’s, some of which are relaunches of existing titles and some of which are brand new series. They have said that there will probably be more new titles coming out in October, which is good, since there are some characters, most notably the Justice Society of America and Captain Marvel, who are noticeably absent from the September solicitations. You can view an organized list of all of the books right here.

So first, let’s go over the actual books themselves. There’s a ton of obvious books here, like Justice League, Batman, Superman, Action Comics, Detective Comics, Flash, Green Lantern, and so forth. There’s also some of the previously announced books getting to see the light of day, like Aquaman, Red Lantern Corps, Justice League International, Batwoman, and Static Shock, though the last of those five has a completely different creative team than was originally stated. There’s also a ton of interesting new books, particularly in the “Dark,” magic side of the DCU, which they’ve finally seen fit to mine. While Zatanna is sadly gone, we’re getting a magic Justice League with Justice League Dark, written by current Hellblazer scribe Peter Milligan. In addition to Zatanna, we get John Constantine himself, Shade the Changing Man, who Milligan wrote for many years and is bringing back in Flashpoint, Deadman, who’s now at center stage of the DCnU after the events of Brightest Day, and Vertigo alumna Madame Xanadu. Swamp Thing, Resurrection Man, and Animal Man are all getting their own books again with amazing teams, particularly Swamp Thing (Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette? Yes please!), and Frankenstein and Etrigan get their own books too, though Etrigan’s takes place in the past.

We’ve also got a bunch of other exciting books, like Blue Beetle finally coming back, a Wildstorm invasion with Stormwatch, Grifter, and Voodoo, Hawk and Dove, Deathstroke, and Suicide Squad getting books again, and various lower-tier Justice League characters getting books, like Firestorm, Hawkman, and Green Arrow. The Batman books also get a total makeover, with Dick Grayson returning to the mantle of Nightwing, Red Hood getting his own book with Starfire and Arsenal, whose arm seems to have regrown, and most controversially, the new Batgirl series with Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf, and Vicente Cifuentes which somehow puts Barbara Gordon back in the cowl.

So to be perfectly fair, most of these pitches are actually pretty dang good. Sure, there’s a lot of backstepping, like with Nightwing and Batgirl. Some characters are also starting fresh as though they’ve never been in the DCU before, most notably Firestorm. But the creative teams are all quite solid, with virtually no disliked writers *cough* James Robinson *cough* in sight. As many have noted, it’s a small group of writers. Scott Snyder, Tony Bedard, Geoff Johns, Peter Milligan, Jeff Lemire, Kyle Higgins, Judd Winick, Scott Lobdell, Gail Simone, Peter Tomasi, J.T. Krul, Paul Cornell, and a few others all writing one book each. I also can’t say that any of the artists really pops out as bad, save perhaps for Rob Liefield, though the poor man’s seen enough hate lately. But each of the books are taking a brand new direction, whether based on past DCU events or not, so DC seems to be taking this initiative very seriously. And a lot of these concepts seem really interesting, particularly some of the Dark books.

So let’s go over some of my concerns. First, Action Comics and Justice League are taking place at the beginning of the age of heroes, rewriting the history of the DCU. It seems now that Superman was the first superhero, and Cyborg is taking Martian Manhunter’s place as one of the founding JL’ers. That knocks out the JSA, which is particularly confusing because of Johns’ amazing work with them. Considering how many awesome characters are associated with them, that does make me nervous. Also, I’ve grown to love Martian Manhunter, particularly since his story was, in my opinion, the most consistent and interesting plot in Brightest Day, and it’s sad to see him lose his position of prominence. Sure, he may be over in Stormwatch, but he’s been the most consistent member of the Justice League, and it will be weird to see a team that not only doesn’t have him but never had him in the first place.

Next, some of the new titles are definitely… odd. Of all the African-American superheroes to give a title to, they gave one to Mr. Terrific, the only JSA character to pop up thus far. I do like the guy, but shouldn’t Cyborg get his own title before Mr. Terrific or Batwing, the random new black Batman? And considering the rather universal panning Eric Wallace’s run on Titans has received, shouldn’t they entrust the character to someone more… trustworthy? And who thinks that the Red Hood can actually support his own title? And what’s he doing with Starfire and Arsenal? Definitely an odd duck trio there, especially considering that it’s taken me and many other fans forever to truly like Mr. Todd since his revival (and I’m still not entirely sold). Some of the “Edge” books are puzzling, like O.M.A.C., since it’s unclear what place Brother Eye now has in the DCU with its revamped history, and I don’t know what happened to Michael Costner. And why are the Blackhawks and Easy Company in the modern day? Weren’t they World War II characters? So those will be complete reimaginings. Lastly, I, Vampire? Really? That minor of a character is getting his own book? That’s obviously not DC cashing in on the popularity of vampires these days.

Lastly, some of the relaunches seem to be completely ignoring the popularity of the concepts of their predecessors. The two biggest offenders are Birds of Prey and Teen Titans. Aside from Black Canary, Birds of Prey has none of the characters Simone has worked with for years, instead giving us what looks like Poison Ivy and Katana, along with some brand new character named Starling. Whether this book is good or not, it has to be even better to overcome the prejudices of the readers, who will be disappointed that Huntress, Oracle, Lady Blackhawk, and the gang are missing. And the Teen Titans are suddenly meeting for the first time, and none of them are even the same people, save perhaps Red Robin. Wonder Girl is a thief, Superboy was just recently created, and Kid Flash is even more of a spaz than before. Plus, we have three brand new characters. Beast Boy? Ravager? Solstice? Raven? Gone. Replaced. And with both books, all the development and interaction that the characters have had before has been erased, so now we can see Superboy and Wonder Girl fall in love awkwardly a second time. In these cases, I feel like DC is just spitting in the fans’ faces, to be honest. The characters we knew and loved are gone because the head honchos, including Geoff Johns, who brought the Teen Titans back to prominence after years of mediocrity, thought that the characters weren’t hip enough and didn’t fit into the DCnU. But I already discussed my feelings about continuity issues, so we’ll put that aside. Suicide Squad is similarly strange, since it seems like an amalgamation of the old Squad and the Secret Six, which has sadly fallen by the wayside. Not sure about that one either.

So all in all, there are about 30 titles here that I can unreservedly look at and think will be good, though I still don’t plan to buy Superman or Aquaman. The rest are all either questionable, even though I plan to buy some of them because of attachments to the old characters. Come September, we’ll see how many of my reservations actually prove correct. My next post will discuss all of the new character designs, all of the ones that look just horrible, and the strange increase in the number of random lines on costumes.

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