For reasons not worth going into, when I bought comics last week, I was picking up about 4-5 months worth. This meant a delicious day spent relaxed in my favorite reading chair, enjoying 4-5 issues of each series, instead of my monthly dose of each. It also meant finally getting a look at what DC Comics is calling the New 52.
If you’re not into comics, then you may not be aware that DC Comics, via Flashpoint, their big summer crossover storyline, have shaken up their status quo once again. They’re redefining costumes, characters, alliances, and enemies, and they’re allowing new readers to come in without being aware of the big backstory, because they’ve ended all of their titles and started 52 comics at issue #1.
So what’s going on with this? Let me give you my thoughts.
A Fond Farewell
Since the New 52 has only been going on for a couple of weeks, most of the comics I picked up were the series conclusions. As far as I can tell, all the authors were told, “Your series is coming to an end. Please write a conclusion to your current storyline that can also work as a wrap-up for the series as a whole.”
I can only imagine what an exciting process this must’ve been. All of the endings I read were great. I feel bad for some of the authors, as they were doing great work. It must’ve been tough to have to wrap things up and move on. But I do applaud DC for not just changing things in mid-story.
The capstone for it was Flashpoint #5, where we discover that Barry Allen, the Flash, changed history because he’d seen an opportunity to go back in time and save his mother’s life. This had created a nightmarish timeline that had been explored throughout Flashpoint and the various spin-offs. When the Flash goes back and prevents himself from disrupting the timeline, he also realizes that he can see three timelines (basically the DC Universe as we knew it, the Vertigo titles, some of which were tied loosely to the DC Universe, and the WildStorm Universe, which had done a bit of crossover work.) His sacrifice unites the three universes and causes the original timeline to reassert itself. Which somehow results in a totally new timeline. Go fig.
So what we’re left with now is a world where all three imprints have essentially always been together. And what that means for us still waits to be entirely made clear.
What’s In and What’s Out
I’ve already written a pretty detailed blog post about my feelings on the New 52 series that I’ve had a chance to read so far. If you’re interested, you can catch it over at my Tumblr blog here. What I’d rather talk about here is what this change seems to mean for the DC Universe.
From what I’ve read, some older story arcs are canon in the New 52. Batman: The Killing Joke happened, but Barbara Gordon’s spine has been fixed, and she’s the only Batgirl. Batman: A Death in the Family happened, but Jason Todd has returned as the Red Hood. Apparently Blackest Night and Brightest Day both happened, as well as the grim events of Identity Crisis. Beyond this, we know little. Has Superman fought Doomsday, died, and returned? It would seem necessary that this is the case, since Superman’s death was strongly linked into Blackest Night, but can we be sure? Obviously Flashpoint happened, but, since only the Flash was particularly affected in that, it’s unlikely that we’ll see much fallout.
I almost wish they hadn’t been so definite about these titles having already happened but had created a timeline of “what has gone before”, even including some of the events. I mean, Blackest Night has happened, okay…but now Superboy is unknown to the DC Universe, and he was important to that storyline. So how does that work? I’m willing to accept that he just wasn’t there. And obviously, Infinite Crisis couldn’t have happened, since it involved Superboy dying to save the world. It’s just rather confusing.
Do I believe that this is it for the DC Universe? Do I believe that time has been inextricably altered?
About as much as I believed Superman would stay dead forever.
I think DC is serious about integrating their various brands, as they’ve previously done. Remember that characters like Captain Marvel and the Blue Beetle, now very much part of DC, used to belong to other companies that DC purchased. They were integrated during the famous Crisis on Infinite Earths…a storyline that now cannot have happened, as Superheroes have apparently only recently started appearing, and Infinite Earths created a timeline in which superheroes had been around since at least the 30s.
I think DC will see how people react to what they’ve done with the various titles. I think they’ll give it a couple of years. And then someone will muck with the timestream, or locate other earths, since apparently they don’t exist in the New 52 that I’m aware of. They’ll probably take what’s popular and mesh it together with the old stuff, and the result will be the NEW New DC Universe.
And I’m okay with that.
See, I understand that comics, as much as they’re about story and art, are about business. They need to sell, and, to do so, they have to do crazy things. I’ve heard people say “Well, I heard about this new event, so I bought some comics, but I doubt I’ll keep buying them.” That’s okay. You bought comics you wouldn’t have bought otherwise. That’s money in DC’s pockets.
If anything, the lasting legacy from the New 52 will likely be DC’s adaptation to online sales. If I didn’t have a Friendly Local Comics Store (the Outer Limits in Waltham, MA. Hi, Steve!), I could buy the new issues on my iPad the same day they come out. But as it is, I like supporting the Outer Limits, and, as long as the store stays open, I’ll keep shopping there. The minute they close, I’ll start collecting on my iPad.
The point is, same day electronic comics are most likely the future of comics. When I was speaking with a friend who runs another local comics store, I told him I hoped business would look up soon. He chuckled. “Sale of print media? Not likely.” And he’s right, and everyone knows it. DC’s just being smart with that particular move, and I think they’ll reap the benefits of the New 52 for some time.
So what do you all think? Have you read any of the New 52 issue #1s? Are you happy with the changes? Angry over them? Could you not care less? Let us know.