Friday, September 20, 2013

Dial E: My Last New 52 Comic for a While

Two years back, I was pretty excited by the New 52. I didn't believe all of the hype, but enough of it to pick up about 1/4 of the original 52 books. I appreciated the bravery of starting everything over again, and at first it seemed like there was a genuine effort on DC's part to have some variety in their titles, which I also liked. Sadly, as time has passed, I've grown ever more disillusioned with the line. Of course all the rumblings of editorial interference and subsequent turnover of creative teams factors into my opinion, but I began dropping DC books even before that kind of news seemed to come out every week. I didn't like the series themselves—they were dry and uninspired, they made decisions about the characters that made no sense and served no purpose, and I just didn't find myself looking forward to reading them. Also they began to feel more homogenous, and it quickly became clear that DC had not actually started everything anew as they claimed—some series got fresh beginnings, while others tried to have their cake and eat it, too, keeping some details of DC's past while ignoring others in sometimes contradictory ways. One by one, these comics were cut from my pull list, and I tried to find replacements (even reading the first few issues of the entire "second wave") but nothing they offered held my interest for long.
     Except for Dial H. I already wrote about it on PopMatters, so I won't delve too deeply into why that book above all others was one I stuck with, but suffice it to say it wasn't like anything else coming out of DC or, to the best of my knowledge, any other publisher. It had the same looming darkness that seems to cover the entirety of the New 52 like a sticky film, but Dial H managed to have a lot of fun, too. It was full of puns, and its main characters were a likably pathetic doofus and an elderly woman who still kicked ass. It felt fresh and daring, and while not all of the art was exceptional, and sometimes the story got hazy (especially toward the end when it had to be wrapped up before its cancellation), it was reliably quirky and silly and stimulating.
     Which brings me to Dial E (technically Justice League #23.3 but I refuse to call it that and I always will). Published as part of the DC's current Villain's Month, Dial E is basically the punctuation mark at the end of the complex 15-issue sentence that was Dial H. And honestly, it's not a very good comicbook. It has a story but no plot, people but no characters, action but no stakes. Every page is drawn by a different artist, so that it functions more as a showcase than an actual narrative. It's incredibly disjointed, as the script amounts to writer China MiĆ©ville unloading all of the ideas for new super-people he didn't have room to fit into the main series. Point being, as a single issue, Dial E has very little merit. But taken as the final piece of the whole, it's sort of the perfect conclusion. Crazier and goofier than anything that came before it, this finale is the boldest, loudest example of the guiding spirit of Dial H, even if it's only tangentially connected to the actual narrative of that book.
     As you can see, I didn't exactly love Dial E, but I was still sorry when I reached the final page. It marked the end of an era, not just because one of my favorite books is gone now. It's also the last New 52 comic I plan on buying for the foreseeable future. Having slowly but oh-so-surely let go of every other New 52 series I've tried in the last two years, Dial H was all I had left, and now they've gotten rid of it, and I see no concrete reason to start with anything else. There are a few titles that have solid reputations that I'd like to catch up on someday: Batman & Robin, All-Star Western, The Flash. But they're all minor additions to an enormous list of comics from many eras and publishers that I know I need to track down and read through, and I'm not nearly as interested in contemporary DC material as I am in basically anything else on said list.
     So I'm done with the New 52 for now. Not with all of DC—Batman Black and White had a great first issue, Batman '66 has been wonderful, and I plan on heavily sampling the new stuff coming from Vertigo. But DC's main line of books can take a flying leap, for all I care. I've been so let down by it so consistently, and the pile of information about dissatisfied creators that keeps growing all the time does nothing to entice me back. I didn't make an official decision all at once to abandon the publisher, it happened organically as every series I tried to follow gave me one reason or another to drop it. With Dial E having come out on Wednesday, my pull list is void of New 52 titles. And I have to looks a lot better that way.

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