Even when the first couple issues rolled out in the back of my head I still couldn’t tell if this was a permanent change or an extended ‘What If’ scenario meant to temporarily goose sales. When some of the fringe titles folded due to a lack of readership I was busy stirring the tea leaves for signs the whole enterprise was going to go belly up.
But now, a full year on, it’s clear that the nu52 isn’t just a one off it’s a sustained attempt to reinvent and refresh a property and a company that had become used to a certain way of doing business and needed a sustained shakeup to help it see outside the box. The end results haven’t always been successful, or even pretty, but the entire exercise has produced more than a handful of pleasant surprises and its worth highlighting them here today.
Best All-Around Title: FLASH
Meanwhile FLASH artist and co-writer Frances Manapul continually manages to elevate his writing and his artwork, blending the manner in which he tells stories with his distinctive artwork. The end result is a finished product that manages to up its game each and every issue. Not all the decision making here is pure gold but the book’s playful mixture of the old and new as well as an increasing ability in scripting the series puts FLASH out at the head of the pack.
Best Story: N/A
(Almost) no more late books. Nothing sucks more than having to wait months between installments of a series that has captured your imagination. By completely revamping their business model and guaranteeing readers that the titles they love will show up every month, no matter what, they reinforce a social contract with their readership and increase the stability of their product line.
Yes, fill-in artists can be painful to watch sometimes, but no less so than losing interest in a story because the creative team behind it can’t manage to put a book out in a timely fashion.
Biggest Surprise: AQUAMAN
Unfortunately, the downside to this tale is that with Johns about to leave this title its almost a guarantee that AQUAMAN will once again be the butt of fanboy jokes.
Best Writer: Grant Morrison
While there are many capable writers lending their chops to the nu52 Morrison continues to outshine them all. Yes, his ACTION COMICS doesn’t manage to reinvent the wheel in the way that other writers have managed but still manages to be a notable force in defining the look and feel of the nu52. And Morrison’s work on BATMAN INC, his final coda on what makes Batman tick, should be required reading for all fans.
Best Artist: J.H. Williams III
Title That Lost Its Way:
What a difference a year makes. Chris and I made a post about 6 months ago about how we thought DC Comics whole New 52 was faring, and gave some of our choices for the best things going. Those choices have probably modified some more seeing as most of the titles that started last fall are now nearing issue 12-13-ish and the narratives have mostly moved past their initial set-up tales and are into the full on storytelling mode. So let’s not waste more time on pleasantries and get into the nitty gritty of what Chris and I are reading in the New 52 and why.
Best All-Around Title: Batman Inc.
Best Story: BATMAN
Biggest Surprise: SWAMP THING
Best Writer: Scott Snyder
For the reasons I noted above, which I won’t reiterate here.
Best Artist: Tie: Mahmud Asrar / Kevin Maguire
Title That Lost Its Way: DIAL H
For me this one is DIAL H by new weird author China Miéville (whose prose novels I enjoy), it didn’t even start till 6 months back as a replacement title. It’s strange and interestingly written, but I really think it wants to be too many things at once, and even at 2 issues into the run I could tell that it was going to be a dogs breakfast. What’s sad about that is that I can see the little gleaming’s of what Miéville is striving for, but it never quite gets there.
Final Thoughts on the whole New 52:
As a vehement detractor initially of the whole reboot-everything idea that was the New 52 when it was reported last summer by DC as their plans going forward, I have since softened my position considerably. In fact at 6 months in I was ready to call it a success, so a year down the line I am just as on side with what DC has done. Part of this has to do with my own scattered history with the publisher. When starting into comics I straddled the Big 2 (Marvel and DC) equally and read a myriad of stuff from both, so my education in the long history of the DC universe was…sketchy at best. The DC New has allowed me to discover things other people already know for the first time. It has allowed me to (for example) learn the SWAMP THING history without having to read 12 trades from Alan Moore’s era and get into the character. It has allowed me to get even more fully versed in the events in the universe. Classic villains that I was unaware of are being used and introduced. In FLASH I am able to see all the things that make that character sing to fans who have known those things for a long time. The added bonus here for long time readers already immersed in the mythos, is that enough is being changed to make it fresh for them not to lose interest in what is essentially a rebooting of the universe they already knew. So on the whole I feel it is succeeding. No late books and consistent output is key to that, but I can honestly say that I am collecting more titles now from the comic store each Wednesday, than I have been in many long years.