Thee Comic Column #2: The New 52 One Year In

I’ll admit that if you had told me  a year ago that I would be reading ANYTHING from DC’s New 52 Reboot/Relaunch except for the Grant Morrison helmed books I probably would have laughed in your face. Then you would have downed the rest of your pint in one long, arrogant gulp and smashed me in the face with the glass. Then I would have invoked the power of Garth Ennis and kicked your arse.

But color me surprised, none of that happened and I am indeed following several of the *ahem* New 52.

I can’t comment on all of it because there are some titles I’m not reading that by trusted accounts are good, ie Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man, J.H. Williams III’s Batwoman and Scott Snyder’s Batman (which as soon as it comes out in a TPB I’ll be picking up, so convinced of what an amazing writer Mr. Snyder is based on Severed and his absolutely FABULOUS run thus far on Swamp Thing, a character as synonymous with Alan Moore to me as Morrison is to Animal Man. I mean, what exactly are the chances that characters like Animal Man and Swamp Thing could strike gold TWICE in one lifetime? Crazy…)

However, there is NO way you can convince me that there NEEDS to be 52 titles a month from ANY company, especially when some of those titles A) Have Blue Beetle in them, B) Look like this, C) are written by Rob “no hands, no feet” Liefeld {{UPDATE  – NOT ANYMORE FOLKS  – obviously I began writing this about a week ago}}.

All that being said, what I am reading is pretty damn good. Of course you may have to come at this with a complete lack of interest in the old continuity that the company had. I sure did – card carrying “DC has dumb characters club” for most of my comic book days and while I’m still not ready to take a leap of faith on a lot of this stuff, China Mieville is doing for Dial H for Hero what Grant Morrison did for the aforementioned Animal Man back in the late 80’s/early 90’s* – and if a superhero book based on rotary dialing can be good, well as they would no doubt say at the Distiguished Competition’s distinguished competition, “Nuff said!”

So there’s the Dial H book which Mieville is slowly bringing into a really, really strange place reminiscent of Morrison’s Doom Patrol, setting up hidden conspiracies behind the impetus for Edison’s invention of the telephone, homicidal Occult scientist doctors and a very strange take on addiction to super powers. Then there’s the aforementioned Swamp Thing – which as far as I’m concerned could easily stand on its own as an excellent old-school 70’s horror book due to the truly creepy way Mr. Snyder’s plot and words mesh with Yanick Paquette’s often bone-chilling artistic depiction of rot, sludge and all the Vertigo-esque things lurking at the dark and primordially evil end of the New 52.

Grant Morrison’s Action Comics, which serves as a kind of “Superman Year One” takes place five years before the rest of the reboot’s continuity and is classically mind-altering Morrison. It’s definitely not for everyone, and I can’t say as I could tell you all of what’s going on in the book in relation to how it’s different than the old status quo, but it is (as Morrison likes to do) a far-reaching and infinitely challenging approach to a character who is so far-reaching and infinite in his powers that frankly, until Morrison took over writing him I found straight up BORING. What’s the fun in a character that is as powerful as Superman unless you put him through the vast reaches of inter-dimensional strangeness and fringe quantum physics, eh?

I’ve waxed all kinds of philosophical longing for the old days of Vertigo for years. Not that books like Saucer Country, Scapled and Punk Rock Jesus aren’t fantastic, but in the late 80’s early 90’s there was a decidedly Occult theme to the Vertigo books – a dark undercurrent that swept through most of the titles (Sandman, HellblazerBooks of Magic and Lucifer to name a few) to form a dark, Magick-based Universe that functioned as kind of an underbelly to the regular DCU – although this aspect was evoked as such only on special occasions**. Now, as I alluded to earlier, the company has sort of reached in and plucked this aspect of “oldVertigoness” from limbo and lined the New 52 with it. It’s a little softer in a way – the nihilism and stark terror in Swamp Thing but elsewhere it’s been cut with a healthy dose of superhero logic. Take for instance the new Justice League Dark book. Originally written by old school Vertigo scribe Peter Milligan, JLD recently passed to Jeff Lemire. Both writers’ runs have been good, but neither’s run has been quite as electrifying as what I feel like the concept could be. In their defense I have a feeling this is probably wobbly territory to write – especially based on some of the accusations of editorial indecision we’re hearing about and how it’s driven some writers away from the company only one year in. Is JLD one of those with regularly changing editorial demands? Maybe. Figure cutting the full-out horror with a handful of revolving Vertigo characters (unofficially led by one Mr. John Constantine) and stuffed into a superhero team paradigm can’t be easy, especially if those editorial drives keep changing, as they have seemed to several times in this book. The initial storyline had a much darker vibe than anything since, and I’m wondering if this is why Milligan left. Not that Lemire’s run has been candy-coated, but it’s decidedly more Superhero than it is Vertigo. I’ll stay on for a bit to see if it gets there, so here’s to hoping.

Last book I’m reading is Paul Cornell’s Demon Knights. I dig it, but I feel slightly the same about it as I do JLD. HOWEVER – I really like Paul Cornell so I trust completely in his vision. Demon Knights is essentially a JLD of Medieval Times, one of several books mapping the past of the New 52 and it’s that concept as well that I really dig, thus although I’m not chomping at the bit to read the book every month (as I was with Cornell’s wonderful Knight and Squire book last year) I enjoy the hell out of it and it peaks my curiosity every month, so in the words of the Saturday night Romeo, I’m in.

Alright, next week I’ll be talking about another fantastic new book I’ve been reading by none other than Mr. Ex Machina himself, Brian K. Vaughn. Until then, pint ‘o bitters and an order of chips please!!!


* My exact words to the person who got me to read Animal Man back then were – initially – “Animal Man? Why on Earth would I read a book called Animal Man. Oooo, ya gonna fight crime with your animal powers?” – no asshole, he’s going to take peyote, find his family butchered and meet the writer cruelly plotting his existence

** ie Constantine’s rare appearances in regular DCU books, Morpheus’ replacement Daniel in Morrison’s JLA run or Death visiting Element Girl.

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

3 Responses to Thee Comic Column #2: The New 52 One Year In
  1. […] methods are what, to me, completely killed DC’s initially extremely promising 2012 relaunch Th...
  2. Shawn C Baker

    SBaker Reply

    Eric, I can’t help it – blue beetle sucks to me. I respect your opinion though. And RE: the stache – I’ve duddly do right, luke skytalker and billy joel tied up on the train tracks right now.

  3. Eric Reply



    Also, your mstache makes you look like an old-time villain. Just saying, the way the ends tip up and all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>