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Me vs. The New 52 Wrap Up: What Have We Learned Today?

So it was one month ago that it all started with the release of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s Justice League #1 on August 31st.

Since then, I’ve read and reviewed fifty-one other comics, writing over 10,000 words on every single book in the DC Comics relaunch.

If you missed them, let’s get you caught up.

Now, over reading these books, as a Marvel fanboy, I think I learned a lot about the DC Universe, so I figured I’d take the time to share it all with you.  So strap in, it’s time to discuss what I learned from reading The New 52!

  • There Are Too Many Damn Books.
    After reading 52 different books, I came to realize that ultimately, the number of titles could be cut in half and still be effective.  4 Batman books, down to 1. 2 Superman books, down to 1. 3 Justice Leagues? Just one.  Sure, we’d end up with still too many books for the average reader to follow, but if their goal was to get people to read 52 different titles, the goal was just a smidge too lofty.
  • Comics Just Aren’t Worth $4.
    One fo the reasons why I was able to push out these reviews as fast as I could was because of the fact that I can absolutely devour the average comic over 5-10 minutes.  On an hourly rate, this means comics cost $24-$48/hr for the reader. Lets compare to the other entertainment options available –  Video Games? Average completion rate: 10 hours, Cost per hour: $6.  Movies? Average length: 2 hours. Cost per hour: $10 (and that’s at an average of $20 for a disc, $6.50 if you’re looking at a theatre experience). The fact is, comics don’t really stand out as value for your entertainment, especially when you realize you’re getting just a glimpse of the full story (more on that later).  I’ve long pushed that the sweet spot for digital comics is 99 cents, if the comics themselves could be released at that rate (drop the paper quality, maybe?), fans would be more game. But as it stands, $4 is quite a bit.
  • Trade Compression Ruins Single Issues.
    I know, I’m not really saying anything new here, but as this is the first time I have sat down and read single issues in about five years, single issues are an absolute waste of storytelling. I definitely understand why so many like me have decided to “tradewait”. There are some comics that did a fantastic job of giving more than enough story over their 32 page length (Batman #1 for example), but many were so decompressed that they felt like a waste of time or that the gears never really got going (see Justice League #1 and Aquaman #1).
  • In DC’s Eyes, Women Are Useless.
    Many people have gone on at length about the poor treatment of female characters in the case of Starfire and Catwoman in particular (this piece by Laura Hudson says it way better than I ever could) , but I struggle to think of a female character presented as an equal throughout the new 52. The two shining examples I can think of are Supergirl (who fought robots, but was never under or overwritten) and Animal Man’s wife, Ellen.  Even Batgirl was reduced to being fraught by her own anxiety, and Lois Lane written almost as a shrew.  It’s a shame too, that in a push for new and exciting books, we only had one female talent in the mix. Gale Simone is a great writer (although Batgirl and Firestorm were not her best work), but there are dozens and dozens of amazing talents that could be in the mix.  I’m reminded of this quote from Community show runner Dan Harmon…”We have to stop thinking about it as a quota thing, and start thinking about it as a common sense thing.”  Half the world are women – why turn off so many billions of potential readers?
  • Where Were The Editors?
    We had two Batman books with Arkham Asylum escapes (Batman & Batman: The Dark Knight), two books with main characters jumping out of planes (Resurrection Man & Grifter),  instances of uneven characterization across books (is the Tim Drake in Teen Titans the same as in Batman?) and overall just a shoddy combination of characters called a “universe”. There should have been stricter editorial control. One of the things that really makes books feel cohesive is when the stories and characters are consistent, and the ball wasn’t necessarily dropped here, but it sure did bounce a few times. And did SO MANY titles really need to end with a last page cliffhanger? They should have cut down on that, having so many makes the choice to have one predictable, as opposed to shocking.
  • Are ANY of These Books For Kids?
    Batman and Catwoman having sex, Wonder Woman sleeping in the nude, numerous decapitations, explosions and other gore – did anyone want to aim for the all ages group?  I know, I know “comics aren’t just kid stuff”, but that’s been a editorial concept for over twenty years now. Companies like Pixar have created amazing works for all ages that do not pander, talk down to, or otherwise make you feel stupid – some of these books just made me feel uncomfortable, and I’m a very open, very liberal dude. But I know that if my child would want to read comics, I wouldn’t have anything from this new DCU to put into their hands.
  • All Things Said, They Made A Believer Out of Me…Sort Of.
    Heading into this project, I had some pretty apathetic hopes for what I would get out of this relaunch, instead, a solid number of books grabbed my interest, and I intend to keep following them. The lucky few are…
  1. Action Comics, Written by Grant Morrison, Art By Rags Morales
  2. Animal Man, Written by Jeff Lemire, Art by Travel Foreman
  3. Batman, Written by Scott Snyder, Art by Greg Capullo
  4. Batwoman, Written by JH Williams III & W. Haden Blackman, Art by JH Williams III
  5. Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Written by Jeff Lemire, Art by Alberto Ponticelli
  6. The Flash, Written by Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato, Art by Francis Manapaul
At the end of the day, they were the books that grabbed me the most, and the ones that I felt like I would really enjoy continuing to read. Sure, there were other solid books (Nightwing, Swamp Thing, Aquaman, etc.), but they were the six that I wanted to keep up with and honestly felt like I’d miss out on without continuing to enjoy them. Sure, it’s just over 1/10th of what was released, but I went from enjoying approximately zero DC books to finding SIX that I want to keep reading. And maybe at the end of the day, that’s just what they wanted, and for me, I’m happy to check them out…but I’ll be waiting for the trades.