Reading the DC New 52: Month Four

Friday, November 02, 2012

The newest month of DC Comics New 52 collection releases included two cancelled Wave 1 series, Hawk and Dove and OMAC; one cancelled Wave 2 series (or is it Wave 3, I can't keep up), Resurrection Man; one that will have two or three creative team changes in as many collections, Deathstroke, and then Action Comics, Superboy, and Swamp Thing. I've read all of these except Swamp Thing, which I've set aside for another time. I am quite confident I'll enjoy Swamp Thing, given its rave reviews and the author is current Batman superstar Scott Snyder, but I've some Swamp Thing back-reading I'd like to do in order to really get the gist of Snyder's book, and that's going to have to wait until later.

This is another month of DC's trade releases that feels weak to me. The first Action Comics trade is certainly a big deal and so is Superboy, though with Teen Titans and Legion Lost released next month, Superboy feels more a part of that month than this. Swamp Thing is a big deal but, of course, I skipped it; and then the others aren't necessarily blockbusters.

I begin to think DC maybe structured the year a little too top-heavy (maybe on purpose, to build initial excitement for the New 52 collections); to have Animal Man, Batman, Green Lantern, Justice League, Justice League International, Stormwatch, and Wonder Woman all in the first month doesn't leave much to really crow about toward the end. Yes, Aquaman and Flash and Nightwing and Superman and Supergirl and I, Vampire, but they're none of them released in as close quarters as that first month.

What I'd like to look at this time is the world-building -- in these seven six comics, what does a reader learn about the new DC Comics universe that they would not have known a month before (granting that, given the above, some other month might have yielded more fruitful studying than this one)? If this actually were a totally new universe, and a specifically-planned one (like the Tangent Universe, for instance, or Grant Morrison's interconnected Seven Soldiers stories), each of these volumes would be serving to reveal something about the new DCU; that's not actually the case, but we may find bits and pieces scattered nonetheless.

The book that may ultimately matter most this month is Action Comics, or the mouthful it's officially known as, Superman: Action Comics: Superman and the Men of Steel. This takes place before Justice League: Origin, making it the earliest (modern era) New 52 story so far. It introduces Superman's new costume, Lex Luthor, Steel, Metallo, Brainiac, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Krypton -- essentially, Men of Steel ought be the book a lot of Superman writers will be going back to for a long time (oh, "Men of Steel," Byrne's Man of Steel, I just got that). Set in the past, Men of Steel doesn't give us anything about ARGUS, the Daemonite threat, Darkseid, or other such common threads among the other titles; very possibly there's an Earth 2/multiverse bit here, but that won't be truly explicit until the next volume.

Superboy: Incubation reveals the second-most about the new DCU, arguably more than Action Comics. There have been cameos of different characters between the titles, but Superboy is the first to full-on interconnect with another, Teen Titans. The presence of NOWHERE simply suggests the new DCU has a lot of covert organizations in it, and I rather wish writer Scott Lobdell had taken a moment to contrast NOWHERE with ARGUS, Checkmate, SHADE, and other groups out there to show how they interact -- to really world-build, as it were. Of course, the biggest thing in Superboy is the presence of Rose Wilson on one hand and Caitlyn Fairchild on the other -- for those with knowledge of the Wildstorm universe, Fairchild's presence suggests a lot more stories coming down the pike that DC hasn't begun to address yet.

Third, surprisingly, is OMAC: Omactivate! Again, if you're not already knowledgable about the old DCU, you wouldn't be expected to know this, but Desaad and the whole Project Cadmus group on OMAC work for Darkseid, last seen in Justice League: Origin. I know there's a Fourth World-related storyline going on in one other high-profile DC title right now, though not necessarily how it relates to this. Should Darkseid face off against the new DCU again (which, let's face it, is inevitable, maybe around the also-inevitable Justice League/Earth 2 crossover), OMAC may be the book everyone goes back to look at.

As for the rest of the month, Hawk and Dove: First Strikes was a let-down -- no real world-building here, nor much story to recommend. Deathstroke: Legacy is interesting in that I'm sure writer Kyle Higgins is using it as a send-up of the new DCU itself; the book is ultra-violent but with good characterization, though Higgins leaves after this volume to be replaced by Rob Liefeld and then Justin Jordan. Resurrection Man: Dead Again was also good, taking the best things from the original series and making them even better, and in a bit of synchronicity, also includes a Deathstroke cameo -- but it's hard to get too enthusiastic about a book that we already know will be cancelled after the next volume.

Next week we'll continue down the path set by Superboy: Incubation with the New 52 Teen Titans and Legion Lost collections, but we'll pause in there also to look at the Flash trade before Birds of Prey and more. Stick around, and tell your friends, eh?

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  1. I'm with in the enthusiasm department. The energy toward the tail end of the trades was and is no where near as powerful as it started out. Doesn't help that certain trades where they benefited from others books, were released far apart from one-another. Animal Man and Swamp Thing are perfect examples. They do so well together, yet Swamp Thing was released 4 months apart.

    And even weirder, is the release of certain trades. All-Star Western just came out this week, and yet, Vol.2 is coming out in March. What?! A mere 5 months later for that? Demon Knights came out in July, and still no solicitation for that? Stuff like that doesn't make sense.

    But anywho, yes you will enjoy Swamp Thing (I already did my review on Amazon). Flash is pretty darn good, and so is All-Star Western. And whenever you can, review Penguin: Pain and Prejudice. It's worth it.

  2. Resurrection Man was a wave 1 series.

  3. Hmm ... I wonder if that's bad news for All-Star Western. Frankenstein and Blue Beetle both had unusually early Vol. 2s, and that's because they were goners.

    And to some extent, DC's front-loading 2013, too. Justice League, JLI, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Animal Man, and Batman all in the first couple months. I applaud that they're releasing paperbacks of the Vol. 1s around the same time as the Vol. 2 hardcovers, but we'll see if the end of the year feels "blah" again.

    @dlberes - True, and thanks, though I meant with what wave was it cancelled, not with what wave did it arrive.

  4. I had a weird month of trade reviews. The majority were non-Marvel and two were Alien books (from two different companies, at that). They ranged from the utterly awful (Sins Past) to the exemplary (AVP: Eternal and Alien: The Illustrated Story).

    If nothing else, my obsession with Walt Simonson was cemented this month. I just picked up the whole "Thor" run at a sale at Tate's Comics in Lauderhill, FL.

    Also, I finally found "The Draco"... sort of. At the sale, they had each individual issue for $.75, so for $5.25, I figured it was better to do that than keep searching for such a rare trade. Besides, I wanted to read the letter columns and see the reaction to the title at the time.

  5. I always find it interesting reading the letters columns of old comics to find out what the fans were saying at the time about stories that ended up being "classics", or about new creators that end up becoming "legends".

  6. I've considered getting a copy of Thor #338 just to see how many people freaked out over Beta Ray Bill.

  7. Since I became a full-fledged waiter for the trade I found myself having trouble remembering what issues were collected in which hardcover/paperback. So I created a plain list to keep track.

    You can take a look at it here, if you like:

    Suggestions for improvement are always welcome.

  8. Resurrection Man is one that I read as a series. It concludes in a nice way that completes the initial story and throws the Body Doubles out into the DCnU for others to play with as well. I guess it will be collected in two books, I suggest that people get both if they want a well written and good story.

    I read Hawk & Dove in singles as well. Can't say that the book thrilled.

    OMAC was one I really enjoyed. Also followed in singles, but would reccommend those that read through trades pick the collected editions up.