Ten Problems with the New 52

DC’s reboot has provided us with some great creative teams, concepts, characters and books. And, as a result, it’s also provided DC with a reinvigorated sales record, as they return to an even keel with Marvel after years of being number #2. Yet while the New 52 has been a success in many regards, there are some aspects which must be a little troubling for the company. These are problems which aren’t hitting home right now, but over the next year could prove to be very difficult indeed. Here’s a look at ten things which might cause problems for DC as the relaunch continues..

1: Aquaman

Under Geoff Johns, Aquaman has made a resurgence which parallels that of the Green Lantern/Hal Jordon push of a few years ago. He’s become a sterling member of the Justice League, given a sense of irony and allowed to be interesting, and been promoted constantly. He’s gaining a supporting cast, led by the amazing Mera, and fans have been coming to the book AND staying with it. The problem is that the timeline of the book isn’t going to sync up with the timeline of Justice League. While Justice League sees Aquaman join the first lineup of the team, stabbing Darkseid in the face and showboating heroically… the solo series is obsessed with the idea that everybody thinks Aquaman is a joke character. Now that works as a metatextual idea, as real-world fans have tended to regard Aquaman as such in the past. But within the DC Universe, we’ve seen Aquaman fight alongside Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman, without making a fool of himself. Once the Justice League book jumps forward in time to show the current-day adventures of the character, Johns is left with two options. He either lets the books run out-of-sync, or he writes a story in Justice League which makes Aquaman look like an idiot. Neither one of those is going to gain readers.

2: Superman

While Wonder Woman and Batman have been controversial, edgy, popular and brilliant reads, the solo Superman title has been almost entirely forgotten about by fans. At first, interest was high, with the idea that Superman would be single, more aggressive, and get to live his life again for fans. We’d get to see him join the Daily Planet, meet Lois Lane and Jimmy Olson, and grow into the DC Universe’s greatest hero. Instead, we had a fumbled issue #1 which was overwritten and uninteresting. That then continued with the book for the rest of the first arc, at which point a new creative team were brought onboard. But have you heard fans talk about it? No, not like they talk about the Amazons or the Court of Owls. Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run is the real Superman title, but has also seen a fade in reader interest. Critics have enjoyed the book, but nothing dynamic has happened – Morrison is essentially rewriting an origin story we’ve seen countless times before, and the changes aren’t big enough to warrant controversy. Simply put, Superman is now the weakest member of the DC Trinity (a role which previously went to Wonder Woman).

3: Martian Manhunter

Heard anything from him recently? No, you haven’t.

4: Cyborg

Which is because his role in the Justice League has been taken by a character formerly of the Teen Titans. Not that there’s anything wrong with this – Cyborg’s origin has been one of the better parts of Johns’ story in the book. The problem is that Justice League is the only book that features Cyborg as a character in any way, and that means he’s going to be constantly fighting for attention alongside all the other big DC characters. Unless he can take a leading role in the stories, or have his personality developed into something distinct and impressive by the creative team, he will always exist as the token African-American. Again, at least DC have put an African-American character into their team. But every other member of the team has at least one title of their own, where they can be developed and showcased individually. The Wonder Woman of the solo series is vastly different to the one we see in the JL team, for example. Cyborg only exists as part of the team, and considering DC have recently been forced to cancel several of their minority-led solo titles, it seems like madness that they aren’t trying to push him more.

5: Batgirl

Barbara Gordon is a problem for DC at the moment. And the problem actually leads into something bigger, as a whole, for the company. Gail Simone’s reboot of the series saw Barbara leave her wheelchair behind and start soaring across the Gotham skyline once more, but it also saw the reintroduction of The Killing Joke to her life. Every issue has contained a least a fleeting reference to the storyline, in which Barbara was shot and paralysed from the waist down by Joker. Despite every new arc being solicited as an answer to how Barbara recovered from the wound, we’ve still yet to see anything to explain it. It’s an ongoing mystery, but a mystery which is showing no signs of revelation. Readers are waiting for this to be answered not because it’s a good story, but because they want the character to get past being a victim and start doing something with herself – to stop revelling in an Alan Moore story from twenty-odd years ago and start telling some new definitive Barbara Gordon stories. At the moment, Batgirl is trapped by this storyline, and doesn’t seem to be progressing whatsoever.

6: The Joker

Speaking of, DC have had a real problem with their Batman villains. Almost every book in the line has been guilty of it, too. Snyder started off the main book by having all the villains captured and in Arkham, getting beaten up by Batman and Nightwing. So already, the villains were all cast as losers and rejects in the minds of the readership. At the same time, David Finch’s ‘Batman: The Dark Knight’ series has also been using various villains as punching-bags, from Killer Croc to Bane. We’re not seeing any of the villains start fresh, or be woven into the tapestry of the Batman mythos. Poor old Joe Chill – the guy who killed Batman’s parents – has been removed from existence! But the biggest absence has been the Joker. Tony Daniel is responsible for this one. For the past seven months, Joker has hardly appeared in any comics. That’s because in Detective Comics #1 he agreed to have his face surgically removed, and hasn’t showed up since. He can’t turn up in Batgirl because he has no face and hasn’t been revealed yet. Harley Quinn, weirdly enough, is now the owner of the face, and is running around with it over in Suicide Squad. Through this strange turn of events, no book in the New 52 can use Joker until Suicide Squad and Detective Comics allow it!

7: Green Lantern

While most characters were rebooted and started new, or fresh; Green Lantern basically continued on from where Geoff Johns left him. Kyle Rayner had been kicked aside in favour of Hal Jordan, and Sinestro had been announced as the new Green Lantern for the solo title. All the other books allow new readers to come onboard and get a story which explains the character, but the Green Lantern line has two titles incomprehensible for anybody but fans, and as Sinestro/Hal Jordan team-up title. Not Green Lantern and Sinestro – Hal Jordan and Sinestro. It’s not exactly a winning formula in the long-run.

8: Amanda Waller

She’s not a wall if she’s so thin that she’s virtually transparent!

9: Voodoo

The wave of feminist writers who took issue with the New 52 weren’t without merit: the takedown of the new depiction of Starfire was spot-on, and has seemingly led to a newly-solicited storyline where she is given some more depth (and clothes). The big victim of this criticism, however, was Ron Marz’s relaunch of a Wildstorm property, called Voodoo. The central character is a stripper, and a hoarde of people jumped on this as a sign of anti-feminism of DC’s part. Strippers aren’t people! Declared a number of writers. They are a sign of male domination! Heaven forbid they read the first book, in which Voodoo kills the man leering at her and goes on to have what was essentially a sci-fi chase narrative. That initial criticism looks to have all-but killed the long-term prospects for the book, leaving DC with yet another alt-Universe character getting cancelled and even less reason for the Flashpoint reveal that every DC imprint were going to be bundled together as part of the New 52.

10: Cliff (Animal Man’s son)

Still rocking the Mohawk. Ugh.


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