It is fair to say DC books like Marvel are loaded with continuity, however unlike Marvel if you waited long enough the DC universe would reboot once a year making anything your favorite character did extremely pointless. Then we had the crisis of the crisis that was infinite, final and the final 52 of final crisis, Brightest Blackest Day; which pretty much painted them into a corner and screwed up continuity so much nothing made sense anymore. So to cure all the problems DC hatched a plan to totally reboot (or is that relaunch) the entire DC universe with a new continuity and make it accessible to new readers. We are now two weeks into the new DC52 universe so did it work?
Lets see, the first book of the DCnU52 was Justice League #1 where all the events take place five years before the current time, Superheroes were seen as menaces and the League didn’t even exist. It worked, it set the tone that we would be seeing origin stories, see the Heroes become Heroes and the entire month of September would be a gateway into DC with its exciting pantheon of characters; 52 origin books what a rocking concept! Justice League was a pure jumping on point for new readers and it worked by focusing on the three heroes that are in the public consciousness with Batman, Green Lantern and Superman.
The next week we saw a bunch of books set in current DC time and not in the Justice League five years previous, which kind of made sense, although I would of enjoyed seeing the emergence of heroes throughout all the titles, it would give the writers a time period to pull from through flashbacks. Then things got a little confusing, we had Action Comics that details Superman’s origins which are set before the JL five years previous. It doesn’t say how long ago, but we know he isn’t wearing the armor he was wearing in the JL comic and he is more geeky in this book – so is this one, two or five years before he runs across Batman? With no timeline to judge when these events happened and the mix of technology your left with a book that doesn’t really fit anywhere and I wonder if would of worked better as a special. The next clue in superhero development is with the Justice League International book which refers to events with the Justice League in sort of past tense, the Justice League America has been established but is seen as a rogue operation. Now we have Action Comics, Justice League and current DC timeline all going on at once… Since DC has such a great history of handling continuity spread across three time lines it is a recipe for the return to continuity errors we are used to seeing.
We also have new reader accessibility problems. For this one I will use the JLI as an example, this new UN sponsored team is based in the Hall of Justice without any explanation what the Hall of Justice is. Yes, of course I know what it is but do new readers? Maybe some of them will remember Superfriends or watched some of the JL cartoons on CN, right?
Then we have the Batbooks… Batgirl refers to events in the Killing Joke when she was crippled by the Joker, that’s okay we have some past history which I shall assume is in the JL five years previous timeline and it looks like it will be explored throughout this book. Batman in Detective Comics isn’t regarded as a pest, but still has cops shooting at him as he operates in an odd gray area of the law. In Batman & Robin, Damian, son of Bruce refers to working with Dick as Batman and the story is linked to events in Batman Incorporated as is Batwing. As Batman Inc is a pre-DCnU52 book I need to know about Batman Incorporated to figure out some of the story elements in the new rebooted Bat books, errmm wasn’t this supposed to be a whole new continuity?
Continuing on this theme Hal Jordan has already lost his ring in his Green Lantern book which makes no sense to anyone who jumped in after watching the movie or the Justice League book. Hawk & Dove leans heavily on its old back story which is double blow considering it has Rob ‘No Feet’ Liefield drawing it. Legion is just an inaccessible mess, unless you know anything about the characters you are lost and story doesn’t help as it is incomprehensible. Even Static Shock, the DC Tween Spider-man book doesn’t even treat us to the characters origins. I thought Superheroes were supposed to be a new phenomenon in this universe? So why aren’t we learning about or joining them on their first steps? In almost every book the heroes are established, so we don’t even get to grow with them. A good example of creating a new universe is Ultimates, it nodded to the older reader while creating something unique and continuity free for the new reader.
Instead of a series of origin books that reset the universe and launched the DCnU52 proper making it completely new; we are two weeks in with a bunch of books that lean on the old continuity and in places totally fail in their task to recruit new readers. Really Hal Jordan with no ring? Legion so badly done you can’t even read it if you don’t know who is who. Hawk & Dove, huh? Stormwatch tripping over itself and we still have two more weeks to go. I’m not convinced that this relaunch is going to save DC from their old problems, I feel we are just on a 52 week countdown to another reboot, a return to the older universe and it will be just a little more broken. Hey, they can just have another Crisis to sort it out, or have Superboy Prime punch the universe again, eh?
Already we have news of some of these books will be cancelled by issue 6, of creative teams being switched around by the third issue? The promise of a new start, of new origins and books free from continuity has been broken; which makes DCnU52 a total fail, right?
I know this post feels like a whine, but when I first started to pick up comics it was in the 90’s and DC books were rocking back then. When I returned to comics in 2007 I found the DC books incomprehensible with no jumping on points and in the middle of a year long event. With no titles I recognized on the rack beyond the Bat books I choose Marvel instead. I so want to be able to really enjoy the DC universe with its rich characters that I was looking forward to coming back via DCnU52; instead I find myself disappointed I wanted DC to really take a risk and give us something new and refreshing. Instead its coming across half baked; perhaps DC should of done an Ultimates line calling it ‘The Flashpoint Universe’ and really gone for it.