Reading the DC New 52: Month Five

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The fifth month turns out to be a rather good one for the DC Comics New 52 trade releases. The best of the lot is clearly Duane Swierczynski’s relaunched Birds of Prey, followed in distant second by Geoff Johns’s Aquaman: The Trench, which is more notable for how it revitalizes the Aquaman character than for the “Trench” story itself.

I’d definitely read a second volume of Scott Lobdell’s Teen Titans, if not for the relatively likable characters then for the Superboy/Legion Lost crossover. Voodoo had a good ending cliffhanger and I’m interested enough in the Daemonite story to get the second volume, letting alone that the book’s cancellation makes this an easy, no-commitments buy. I’ll stick with Legion Lost because I’m a Legion fan and it, too, is cancelled after its next volume. Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men might be the easiest for me to drop because I’ve never felt a real connection with the title character, but given that a new creative team is about to come on, that’s almost like another volume one for me.

After Firestorm, Peter Tomasi’s Green Lantern Corps might be this month’s title that I’m mostly likely to drop, as I didn’t much enjoy it nor the latest volumes of the related series that preceded it, War of the Green Lanterns and Emerald Warriors. But to some extent I’m not sure one can be a “DC Comics reader” and not read Green Lantern and its associated titles simply as a cultural phenomenon, given how the Green Lantern franchise essentially brought DC back to life in the last ten years. I’m dismayed it seems like there’s two back-to-back Green Lantern crossovers on the horizon — they might as well give up the illusion that there’s four Green Lantern titles and just make Green Lantern weekly — but given that Geoff Johns has been writing Lantern for so long, I just bring myself to look away from any part of it until he finishes.

In terms of continuity this month, the most surprising commonality was between Legion Lost and Voodoo, which both include appearances by the Black Razers team. The new DC Universe has far too many rogue science/military groups (including Firestorm’s lackluster Zithertech), and I figured the Black Razers in Legion were just another one until they popped up in Voodoo, too, given pretty extensive background by writer Ron Marz. The Martian Manhunter also makes cameo appearances in both Legion and Green Lantern Corps this month, plus Stormwatch gets a nod in Voodoo. None of this reveals any deeper fundamentals about the new DC Universe nor hints at future storylines necessarily, but this was a strong month for the books feeling like a cohesive universe.

In this aspect Swierczynski’s Birds of Prey also comes off as a title worth watching. Not only did Swierczynski blend action and humor in a way reminiscent of classic Birds runs, but the first trade also introduces Katana, soon to appear in the new Justice League of America series. This way, a book that’s really an outlier in the Batman family also ties directly to the Justice League franchise. As well, Swierczynski guest-stars Batgirl and preserves the Barbara Gordon/Black Canary friendship, which at least takes a step toward mitigating the fact that a year into the DC New 52, there’s still no mention of Oracle’s status.

It’s December now and I’ve got all my DC New 52 collections in hand. It has been a wild year and a wild reading experience to be sure, especially reading fifty-two “first” volumes that did not involve pausing to read the preceding volume first. This process of always starting from the beginning instead of returning to an established series is exhilarating, but I’m looking forward the second volume of Aquaman, Batman: Night of the Owls, Justice League: Villain’s Journey, and others that are less about introducing the characters and more about getting on with the show.

Two more months of DC New 52 Volume Ones left, including Justice League Dark and I, Vampire, Hawkman, Superman and Supergirl, Nightwing, and Red Hood and the Outlaws. The Collected Editions review of Green Lantern: New Guardians will be up this Thursday. Thanks!

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