The New 52

DC Comics has begun rolling out its New 52 lineup. Ever since DC announced plans earlier this summer to renumber its titles and reboot its universe, I have been burning with anticipation to get a look at the relaunch, while my mind has seethed with a slew of questions. How far would the reboot go? What major changes will this bring to the DCU? Would all the characters get revamped? Will they get new origin stories? Are events from the past completely wiped out? And how quickly will this new DCU be established?

Thus far, I have read Justice League, Action Comics, Detective Comics, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and Batgirl. These titles give a pretty good indication of where DC is going and what this relaunch is all about. It is more a retooling than an all-out reboot. All the familiar DC iconography remains, only it has been cast in a new light, given a fresh context, modernized in some ways, and/or simplified where needed, all aimed at drawing in new fans and–at the same time–satisfying the existing loyal fanbase.

Justice League #1, written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Jim Lee, kicks things off with a decompressed origin story of the JLA. It looks like this relaunch will move slowly, bringing the members of this iconic team together little by little, perhaps one at a time over the course of five or six issues. In this first issue, Batman and Green Lantern meet for the first time, fight and chase down an extraterrestrial cybernetic creature, find an alien artifact that has something to do with Darkseid, and then–for the final end reveal–seek out and confront a hostile Superman. Also included is a brief introduction to Vic Stone aka Cyborg. The reboot has confined itself to the timeline, the clock has been turned back, back before Batman, Green Lantern, and Superman knew each other and anybody ever heard of Darkseid. This was a good first issue. The art was outstanding, slick and action packed, a neon colored realism that is given plenty of room to breathe. Justice League #1 is a must read and probably one of the best comics of the year.

Action Comics #1 attempts to relaunch Superman. How exactly do you relaunch the most iconic superhero of all time? If you are writer Grant Morrison, you bring the Man of Steel back to his roots. The new Superman is a throwback to the 1930s original, a champion of the oppressed and fighter for social justice. Action Comics #1 presents an extremely young Superman, dressed in jeans, a red cape, and blue t-shirt emblazoned with the classic S shield, a stripped down look very similar to Superboy in Infinite Crisis. This 20-something Superman can still run faster than a locomotive and leap tall building in a single bound…but he can’t fly…at least not yet. Far from being recognized as a hero in Metropolis, Superman is hunted down as an alien parasite by General Lane and Lex Luthor. The book ends with Superman impaled and trapped by a train and Luthor commenting on something approaching Earth from space just beyond the planet Neptune.I am really excited about this title and look forward to seeing where they take this story. The art by Rags Morales and Rick Bryant is strikingly similar to Jim Lee’s art in Justice League, lending the book a uniform continuity with the rest of the DC relaunch.

Detective Comics #1 is your typical Batman vs. Joker story. I didn’t see anything radically different here, at least not different in a relaunch different kind of way. Of course Bruce Wayne is the Batman, a vigilante of Gotham City, resented and hated by criminals and cops alike, except for Jim Gordon. This was another great book with stunning artwork, but aside from Bruce Wayne being younger than usual, nothing is really different. Batman will remain the Batman.

Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and Batgirl do indeed bring change to the DCU. Swamp Thing and Animal Man are now both firmly fixed within the continuity of the DC Universe and no longer exist in some kind of Vertigo ghetto. And most controversial of all, Batgirl is back on her feet and in fighting shape again. This is a major reboot. In the infamous Killing Joke, the Joker shot Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, in the back leaving her paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. She become the Oracle thereafter, one of the coolest characters in the DCU and a favorite ally of Batman. Now she is healed. And how is this explained? She just got better…DC has chosen to just gloss over it, to retcon it in the worst possible way. But these are comic books and such things happen…I’m happy to have Batgirl back, but I will miss the oracle.