Saturday, October 1, 2011

DC New 52 debriefing + a mini Daredevil review + indie October

Phew. September is over. One month of relentless hype, debate, outrage, excitement, confusion and snark. Fifty-two new #1s, all sold out. A tremendous success in terms of initial sales. And there's no doubt about it, DC has dominated the comics internet. To the point where maybe we're a little exhausted and sick of hearing about them.

It's going to take a lot more hindsight before we can fully grasp what just happened and start to analyze its full implications. But I can tell you this: The dude who runs the comic book store I got to told me that before September they had about 90 reserves (i.e., clients who subscribe to books and have them set aside for them until they can pick them up) and now they have over 150. So it seems like a lot of these new readers, wherever they're coming from, are in it for more than just the first issues.

I'm impressed. I wasn't at all convinced that this would work. I'm still not sure that this is an altogether positive things in the long run as far as what I personally want out of mainstream super-hero comic books from the Big Two, but I have to admit that DC seems to have hit its short term goals. Remains to be seen whether they'll be able to turn these into a viable long-term strategy.

Out of the new 52, I only read 13 books. Here they are, sorted from best to worst:

1. Animal Man
2. Swamp Thing
3. Wonder Woman
4. Batman
5. Action Comics
6. Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE
7. Batgirl
8. Demon Knights
9. Fury of Firestorm
10. Supergirl
11. Static Shock
12. Stormwatch
13. Justice League

Of these 13, only Justice League was a true stinker. The top 4 were excellent. The next 5 were okay. The bottom four books are off my pull list. I'm going to stick with the other 9 for at least a few more issues to see where they're going.

Noticeably absent from the list is Batwoman, which I wasn't able to get my hands on before it sold out at my store. I have the second printing on reserve and am looking forward to it. Other books that I think might have been worth a look, based on reviews and comments I've seen online: Justice League Dark, All Star Western, maybe Nightwing (especially because it seems like it's gonna tie in with Snyder's Batman), maybe The Flash (I love Francis Manapul's art, but Geoff Johns' run kinda turned me off the character), maybe even Teen Titans (if only because the reviews I've seen are quite positive - I still have a hard time getting past Brett Booth's awful art and Tim Drake's ridiculous new costume).

Everything else I think can pretty safely be ignored.

I'm going to resist the temptation to comment further on the issue of sexism in some of these books, because I would just be repeating myself at this point. (I will say, though, that I'm pretty disgusted by how the discussion about sexism in comics has morphed into a discussion about whether we're allowed to talk about it. If I read one more blog post about how all we have to do is ignore the bad books and promote the good ones for everything to magically fix itself, my head is going to explode.)

My overall impression of the relaunch, based on what I've read and the comments and reviews I've seen online of the stuff I haven't read, is that although there are some good books, there isn't a lot of variety in the tone. You'll notice that my top four books above are all pretty dark/mature/serious/whatever. I don't hold that against them, because they do it well. But I get the impression that DC could really use a few light-hearted fun books.

Again, this comes down to the fact that DC seem to be putting all their eggs in the same basket. Their primary target audience is males aged 18-34. (They've stated this officially, so I'm not making it up.) The problem is I don't think that demographic is large enough to support 52 books, so I don't understand why they didn't try to aim some of their new titles at different readers. Besides, it's not like males 18-34 are a uniform group.

The perfect example of the type of book I think is missing from DC's line would be the current run of Daredevil, written by Mark Waid with art by Paolo Rivera. That book is probably my favourite thing that either of the two publishing giants are putting out right now. The art is fantastic and tone of the writing is light and fun, without making the story or characters seem trivial. It's colourful and flashy without being weird or inaccessible. I think it's a book that almost anyone can enjoy (I don't think I've seen a single negative review of it anywhere). It's almost like Mark Waid set out to prove that comics could be awesome without being grim and gritty, and he hits it right out of the park.

I think DC could learn a thing or two from that comic. I like how dark and violent Azzarello and Chiang's Wonder Woman is. But I don't need every single book that DC puts out to be brutal or serious. The days when DC comics needed to prove to everyone that "comics aren't just for kids" are long gone. It's okay to lighten up a little.


October's here. Since September was all about DC, I want to spend this month focusing on some other publishers. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to make an effort to post about the titles on my pull list that are not set in either the DC or Marvel universes. Just to make sure people don't forget that there's a lot of variety out there. Comics are awesome.


Ed Howard October 2, 2011 at 8:57 AM  

Sounds like the book you want is The Flash. It's not quite as good as Daredevil (which really is awesome and had a killer first issue that DC could have learned a lot from) but it's still pretty good and does have that light-hearted, bright and colorful vibe. I hope it keeps it up with subsequent issues because I thought the first one was a blast. Tonally, it's very similar to what Waid is doing with Matt Murdock. OMAC was also pretty fun because it was just a hyperactive Kirby pastiche, churning out a bunch of wacky images during what was basically one long fight scene. I'm not sure it'll be sustainable but I enjoyed the first issue. You're right of course that the new DC could use more of the fun stuff. Most of the best stuff from the New 52 was the darker, weirder stuff. Which is fine - I love dark and weird - but some more variety would be nice. That's true of Marvel, too, of course. They're not exactly overflowing with stuff like Daredevil.

I'll be looking forward to your indie reviews. Although this month doesn't really reflect it, most of my comics reading is from publishers other than Marvel and DC, and most of my comics reading is not about superheroes. I'll be curious to see what you pull on a regular basis, since most of the non-Big Two stuff I read is graphic novels and books rather than monthly series.

Yan Basque October 2, 2011 at 11:39 AM  

Thanks for your comment. I think I will give The Flash a chance if I can get my hands on the second printing. I really love Francis Manapul's art, so I have no doubt that the book looks stunning. What turned me off is the character. I read Geoff Johns' full run leading up to Flashpoint and was really disappointed by the way that it didn't really lead anywhere. The whole thing was like a long, extended, boring prelude to Flashpoint. But maybe I'll give it a chance if the tone has changed now that Geoff Johns is off the title.

I also agree that Marvel is mostly just as dark and lacking in fun as DC is. Daredevil is not at all representative of what they put out. Although I would argue that Amazing Spider-Man is much lighter and more fun than most of what DC puts out. I'm even enjoying the Spider Island storyline, although I'm not reading any of the crossover issues.

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