Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Year Without the New 52 (and the Book that's Bringing me Tentatively Back)

Last September, after months of dwindling interest and dropped titles, I gave up on reading any of DC's New 52 series. It's been nearly a full year since then, and I have yet to return to that line of comics. I've continued to follow some Vertigo series, and I read all six issues of Batman Black and White, so it's not as if DC hasn't been getting any of my money. But as far as the in-continuity, mainline, shared universe superhero/superhero adjacent titles, I've stayed insistently away all this time.
     Have I missed the DC characters at all? I suppose so, but not any more than I missed them already. What I mean is, not very many DC books felt to me like they captured what I liked about their main characters in the first place. They were altered, watered down, and/or completely new takes on old characters, and most of them never clicked for me. Batman was stubbornly incompetent, the Earth 2 characters were being rebuilt from scratch, Wonder Woman was a passive non-entity, Green Arrow was...I don't know what the fuck was going on with Green Arrow. So even though it was a drag not to have any of these characters in my life for the past year, it was a drag when they were in my life, too, since they were lame, uninteresting versions of themselves.
     As an obsessive follower of comicbook news, I have of course stayed loosely tapped into the goings-on of the New 52, through the articles and reviews and interviews and such that over-populate this lovely Internet of ours. I'm vaguely aware of Future's End and its destined-to-be-undone future setting. There's a new Batman in it, right, who's really Shazam or someone like that? I don't have the details, but if there's one thing I do's that the Grayson one-shot tie-in issue has been generally well-received, perhaps the best so far of all the 3D cover tie-ins being released this month. Oh, and that reminds me, I know that Dick Grayson gave up his Nightwing persona to become a spy of some kind. I know that Wonder Woman and Superman are a couple now, and that he generally overshadows her in their shared book. I know that Infinity Man and the Forever People is for some inexplicable reason an ongoing title being published by DC right now. I'm sure there are things I've missed or forgotten, and certainly my refusal to actually read any New 52 material keeps me out of many loops, but I do have one ear to the ground, still, waiting for a reason to come back. Finally, after an entire year, I think DC may have given me one: Gotham Academy.
     I am far from the only person excited about this title. I'm probably one of the late-comers to the anticipation bandwagon. The first couple times I saw the name Gotham Academy mentioned anywhere, I glanced over it without really letting it sink in or paying attention to the creators involved. It was just another Bat-family book in my mind, a needless addition to what was already the biggest part of the New 52 line. Little by little, though, the buzz started to seep through: Becky Cloonan's name caught my eye, then I was interested by the fact that the cast is comprised of new characters, and finally I got my head out of my ass long enough to really take in the splendor of Karl Kerschl's art for the series, and I was fully sold at last. It looks promising, exciting, and fresh, and it doesn't seem like it'll be too deeply wrapped up in all the events and nonsense of the rest of the New 52niverse, so it's got just enough appeal for me to break my fast and sample one of DC's latest dishes.
     This isn't the start of a big, sweeping return to DC for me, or at least I don't think it is. Even if Gotham Academy shoots straight to the top of my list of favorite series, that's no reason to read anything else DC is putting out. I am cautiously hopeful, though, that this title will live up to its hype and potential, and if it does...who knows? Grayson is written by Tim Seeley, who I tend to like. Arkham Manor, which is the other new Bat-book coming out soon, sounds alright. And after a whole year away, there are plenty of new creative teams working on books I ditched way back when: Swamp Thing, Green Arrow, Earth 2Red Lanterns (which, like...what? Why has that survived?). Maybe it's time to give it another go.
     On the other hand, a year isn't really that long. I stopped reading the New 52 on the heels of their last anniversary 3D cover gimmick, and here we are again. Futures End sounds like a big mess, and a boring one at that. So basically it seems like it's just as bad as most recent DC crossovers, no matter how big or small. These comics are still doing the same things as a group, so the New 52—which I'm led to believe no longer consists of 52 titles no matter how you slice it—is just as unattractive to me on the whole as it was when I bailed. Gotham Academy isn't necessarily the deciding factor as to my future relationship with the New 52, but if it rocks my world, I'd admittedly be more likely to give something else a taste.

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