DC just announced that 6 of its titles are being replaced with 6 new ones. Two of these, I had tried and dropped. Partially because the story did not stick with me. I like the characters enough, but I am also feeling the sting of needing to be frugal. Due to money issues, I dropped all my comics a while back. The “new 52″ at DC did what they had hoped. It got me back in the store. 5 months later, I am still feeling my way through what I am buying.
When I decided which titles to try, I selected things that
1. I found the proposed story idea to be exciting.
2. Characters I wanted to read about that I had not in the past.
3. My old favorites.
4. Team books, which is what I started with 30 years ago.
I bought 12 titles.
Category 1: Stormwatch.
With Stormwatch, DC advertised this story well. The Moon being alive and attacking the Earth. The premise was classic old science fiction. The characters are interesting – even though they do not wear costumes. The story moves like a roller coaster. I think it reminds me of Morrison’s JLA, where there were concepts which could have been entire mini-series which we only shown in a page. Putting Martian Manhunter in here was a stroke of editorial genius. It made people talk about the book and made JLA fans consider it. I do wish the characters were a bit more instantly identifiable, and costumes would help, as sometimes I have trouble identifying who is who. Four issues in, this is still my #1 comic.
Category 2: Mr. Terrific, Static, Catwoman.
Mr. Terrific, I like the book, but it is not spectacular. It feels weird to read him without his teammates in the JSA. Maybe some heroes are not cut out to be solo characters. I’ve often felt this way about the Martian Manhunter. I think Mr Terrific’s fans would be better served with him in the Justice League (since the JSA is not around).
Static, the story is just boring. There seems to be no good reason why he is in New York instead of Dakota. Yes, there is a reason given in the book, but it is not compelling. The villains are uninspiring. DC seems to have forgotten why fans asked for Static to be added to the DCU. So that he could be teamed with the other teen heroes. Why is he not in Teen Titans? Why not put him there to boost sales of his solo comic?
Catwoman, I dropped after issue 2, because the death of her friend was too graphic for me (the sex did not bother me). I’ve known I should avoid the Bat universe for years. But every once in a while DC puts out something that makes me try it anyway. Nightwing. Cassandra Cain Batgirl. Batman Inc. The Batman corner of DC is too death filled for my taste. I did like the recent Stephanie Brown Batgirl book.
Category 3: Aquaman, Blue Beetle, Flash, Firestorm.
Aquaman disturbs me because of the horror angle. But I love Aquaman the character. I think he needs the attention this book being written by Johns will give him. I just read issue 4. The wrap up of the story was good. I was afraid it would be six issues and was pleasantly surprised that it was completed in 4. On to the search for who sank Atlantis.
Blue Beetle suffers from feeling like a retread of a story I have already read. It is too much like a rewrite of the former Blue Beetle book. It needed more new material.
Firestorm I dropped because there were too many deaths in issue 1. I understand that death is frequently part of a hero’s origin, but I don’t like to watch it happen in the current time. While the idea of multiple Firestorms is interesting, the controlling organization and the bleakness of the world painted here is just not to my liking. I dropped the book after 2 issues.
Flash is OK. The story is interesting enough. Having read Wally West as Flash for 25 years makes this feel weird, but I like some of the techniques. I may actually go back and buy issue 4 and continue with this series.
Category 4: Birds of Prey, Justice League, JL International, Teen Titans.
Birds of Prey is a book I want to like. I loved Gail’s run on this book years ago. Gail’s recent return just did not have the same feel. The line up is different, but it looked worth picking up. I do not like that Canary has a crime hanging over her head. Not sure what her Justice League history is in the new DCU yet, but I prefer my heroes without murder charges. This story point also feels like a retread of a recent story. The other team members are a good selection of characters. I miss Huntress, Oracle, and Lady Blackhawk, but the new team is interesting. The problem is the story. It is slow. The villains goal is too vague. And the story feels ‘fluffed’, without enough substance.
Justice League is awesome, but it has issues. The character selection is very good. As I wrote in a previous blog, the prior version just did not feel like the JLA. This team, even as it is just forming, feels mostly like the right team. The story is also engaging. On the other side, it pains me that the extra pages I am paying for are filled with things I consider worthless. The Wonder Woman text piece should have been done as one of those editorial pages, not as content. Character sketches should be for trade edition extras. The Atlantis book was the worst, adding nothing at all. Even though I like the story, I actually feel ripped off every time I buy an issue.
JL International is an interesting case. I like the idea. The character choices are good. Some expected, some original. The story is going OK. I hate the fact that the writers destroyed the Hall of Justice. If this is ‘the new DCU’, and you do not want to use it, why just not show it at all? I did like that the team was formed quickly and took off right away on a mission.
Teen Titans has interesting characters. The story telling keeps shifting to give focus to the various characters, which I like. But the overall story has the same problem which plagued the last several incarnations of Teen Titans. They need to look back at what made the Wolman/Perez version great. The stories seemed to flow organically out of the characters. The team was formed in one issue. In the first arc, they explored why Raven needed a team and Raven’s background. Each story explored the background of another member of the cast while giving us an interesting story. NOWHERE reminds me of the DEO Kids, a story told in the pages of the Titans which had nothing to do with our heroes, actually displacing them from their own book. While the threat impacts our heroes, it is external to them and could be attacking anyone.
The overall themes I found were these:
A. For the long time reader, there is too much time spent on origins of the characters. When I found comics, or started reading a new title, the origin was background material. The current story is what mattered. Was it exciting enough to make you come back for the next issue. The origin was given in flash backs. I understand they want new readers to feel like they are coming in at the beginning, but I would like the origin to be motivation, not the story itself. The origins also feel too much like retreading old history. The stories need to give long time readers more meat in the story.
B. The stories drag on too long. This was an issue before we moved to the new 52, but comics used to be able to tell an origin in a single issue. DC even published a comic called Secret Origins which would tell the basic background of characters and fit 2 or 3 of them in a single comic. I remember reading the origins of Green Arrow, the Legion and the Huntress in one comic, DC SuperStars #17. Geoff Johns seems to be the worst offender. 7 issues to tell us Hal Jordan’s origin? Come on. Sure, he introduced Atrocitus, but the story still could have been told in a few less issues. We need to get back to more compact story telling. More words, fewer full page and double page spreads with no text. Justice League is currently plagued by this dragged out story syndrome.
C. The cost of comics is only going up. $4 comics are going to become the norm. Marvel has proven that fans will pay it. Positioning JLA as a $4 book has proven that DC fans will pay it for the books they really want. The problem is that I do not want to pay it. This had made me hesitant to sign up for a subscription to any book at this point. With the recent announcement that more books are going to 3.99 instead of the hoped for price drop I had hoped for on Justice League.
D. Death is ever present in the new DC. Not so much for heroes as it had been, which is good, but for the common man. I know its been there in Batman and Green Lantern. But now Aquaman is a horror comic. We have stories where hundreds have died before the heroes start to solve the big picture problem. While saving the universe is important, I’d like to see them save everyone. That is what heroes used to do.
There are two areas of the DCU I have not touched on here. Superman and Green Lantern. I’m not sure why, but I rarely buy Superman solo books unless there is an event going on I want to read. Reign of the Supermen was one such story. John’s recent re introduction of the Legion was another. Green Lantern has been a big focus for a while. Before I stopped buying comics earlier thsi year, I was buying both GL and GLC. But when the time came to decide which books to pick up in the new 52, GL did not make the cut. Part of it is that I just find the current Hal Jordan to be boring. All the other lanterns, all the big stories, very good. Without those, GL was just flat. I was more interested in reading about other characters.
So, what am I going to continue to buy? Its hard to say. I am thinking of going back to team books only. I am also thinking of just buying occasional trades. Part of my situation is that I just don’t feel like spending the money any more. I could buy older series that I skipped for $1 each at the local shop or on line. Or I could re-read those hundreds (thousands?) of comics I already own.
My buy list for month 4 was only 5 titles.
Stormwatch, JLA, JLI, Teen Titans and Aquaman. After writing this, I might go back and get Flash.