Monday, December 5, 2011

The New 52 and Creeping Ambivalence

As I knew it might, and as I've discussed here before, DC's New 52 and its attention on supposedly newer and younger readers (a possibly necessary marketing step) feels less and less like its working for me every week.  And its an odd feeling.

I'm still excited by a few books.  Animal Man.  Swamp Thing.  Batwoman.  Action Comics.  But as time wears on, the approach DC has taken in the relaunch, of hiring the same old hands and just sort of re-jiggering the DCU with no rhyme or reason to it...  the sheer half-baked approach to the effort on so many titles, is just beginning to wear on me as an adult reader and a long-time DC fan.

But the bottom line is that while some of these comics are sort of bad, most of them are just plain not very good.  They aren't special or worth the time or money associated with them.  They're the filler material of C-list comics that, for some reason, always seem to just exist the same way shows like NBC's The Sing Off manage to show on television for no real reason other than that they generate modestly more money than the budget and are less embarrassing than going to a test signal and admitting you ran out of stuff worth showing.

I think it was in reading Superboy #3, a title which I thought promising in issues 1 and 2, that I had a moment of clarity.  This was just mediocre-to-bad storytelling.  Three issues in and we're circling the drain of characters living in a microcosm just dealing with a small group of characters with whom they'll be locked in an endless bad relationship because that's how comics work these days.  Its yet another secret lab run by secret scientists and secret men with ridiculous outfits and names dealing in self-referential plots, none of which makes sense.

This was coupled with the un-reviewed copy of Supergirl #3 that I picked up after hearing the series picked up with issue 3.  In which the writers gave Supergirl a Luthor knock-off who is a TRILLIONAIRE.*

I'm just tired of seeing so many comics and no new ideas, no fresh approaches, and nothing you can point to that says "oh, yes.  In 2011, the DC Relaunch really did change superhero comics".  I want my Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns moment, and I fear I'm getting Heroes Reborn.

The DC Relaunch has not been a total failure for me, but so much of it feels so very, very lazy.  Writers keep "leaving" books and are replaced by guys who saw their prime when I was in high school or starting college.  Few new writers or hot writers are finding a place in the new DCU (where is Cullen Bunn's book?  Or Chris Roberson's?)  As a reader, I have to come to the conclusion with some of these books that either the writer doesn't respect my intelligence as a reader, or they (and their editors) aren't all that sharp themselves.

I want for some of this to work, but...  I'm now simply waiting for the New 52 to fall over and subduct into the comics history books within 18 months.  The product DC is spinning is virtually indistinguishable from the sorts of comics that weren't drawing reader/ consumer interest in June.  The push for digital seems to have fizzled, and the marketing money and effort is a distant memory as we enter month 4.

The relaunch, while momentarily successful, was a one-time deal.  And I can't see how DC can say they were ever really serious about all 52 titles.

Truthfully, I don't really want to write much more on this topic.  Its kind of a bummer.  But as we spend so much time talking DC Comics on this site, for me, the topic is unavoidable.  I suppose part of me is just putting a stake in the ground so that in 18 months, when something has changed, I can look back and say "what was the date where I posted about the mediocrity of the DC relaunch and how I was concerned for what it meant longterm?".

Well, here's my line in the sand.

*that's roughly 20 times more than Bill Gates.  That more than 13x the value of the wealthiest man on Earth right now.  Its just a stupid number that in no way works the same way as, say, a gorilla army invading Central City.  Not to mention, the dude's business plan is chasing meteors, so this means the guys on Meteor Hunters on cable are worth the GDP of a good chunk of the planet's nations.


JMD said...

Random thoughts: Was 52 titles two many for this enterprise? Should DC limit what it publishes to only good work, or should it flood the market?

Is it possible we're getting too old for this?

The League said...

I now believe 52 titles was simply too many titles. It probably should have been cut down to around 20.

Marvel actually has been doing the "flood the market" model, and something about the New 52 broke their model as they have begun drastic cuts to their own line, which was putting out close to 100 books per month, if I remember my figures.

I do think age and maturity has something to do with it. That said, I don't think I've outgrown fun adventure stories. Its one thing to buy into one version and stick with it, but once you've seen your second major reboot (COIE and Flashpoint) and multiple smaller reboots (Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis, etc...), at some point the rigging behind the scenes begins to show too much and it diminishes the fun.

I don't want to worry about what's wrong at DC Editorial. I want to read Superman stories about Superman being Superman, and that hasn't really happened much aside from Chris Roberson's work since 2007.

horus kemwer said...

"Is it possible we're getting too old for this?"

See, here's where I part ways with The League—because although I do enjoy a good adventure yarn, I think the real problem is a refusal (by the publishers?) to let the medium fully realize the variety it can express.

Of course, that by itself isn't an answer to the age issue, but I do think "different strokes for different folks."

Anyway, I'm done with the new 52. I even spit on Animal Man and Swamp Thing. Too meta in a silly by the numbers way. F--- these elaborate postmodern, self-referential backstories. It is not helping good story telling at all. I think people have just been overly impressed by the quality of the art, and the fact that they don't suck as much as the rest of the new 52.

I haven't even been blown away by Action, and I'm a hardcore Morrison fan. The only winners for me are Batman and Batwoman. And Batwoman essentially wasn't rebooted anyway!

Ugh—back to Unwritten and Xombi (if only my stupid local shop would carry it!) for me!

Jake Shore said...

"I'm just tired of seeing so many comics and no new ideas, no fresh approaches, and nothing you can point to that says "oh, yes. In 2011, the DC Relaunch really did change superhero comics". I want my Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns moment, and I fear I'm getting Heroes Reborn."

Boy, you said it. I suddenly remember my Shakespeare, "...It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Jake Shore said...

At the risk sound "I told you so," I said at the beginning, I thought 52 titles was too many to relaunch, and ensure quality and originality. Seems like the creative talent pool isn't that deep, and/or there's no vision among DC's leadership.

I guess the question now is, do they recognize this? And, can they fix it?

The League said...

@horus - I totally get it. I do. And I do believe that I may have topped out on where a lot of superhero comics are willing to go and what I hoped possible with a relaunch. I may have been more forgiving as DC tried different things pre-relaunch, but like yourself, I wanted more.

I can still enjoy some of these books on some level, but as I said, I was hoping for at least a few of the titles to break out as experiments. While I don't think Animal Man is particularly "edgy" by the terms I think of, its at least trying to be interesting, and that's not something I can say for the vast majority of what the relaunch represents.

Even Vertigo seems to have a formula to its books that's just too comfortable.

@jake - I think the question is whether Dan Didio and Jim Lee's bosses are going to recognize the issue and can find a way to fix it that isn't just doing what DC is doing right now, and recycling the same folks who had their shot.

But I think we're going to have to see something pretty bleak happen over the next 12 months or so before anything happens.