DCU Relaunch – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I’m compelled to write something about DC’s massive relaunch come September (for solicitations go here) and I debated how to tackle such a post. I contemplated writing a blurb about every single title but, with 52 books altogether, that’s a little more writing than I’m looking to do right now. I thought about handing out “awards” such as most disappointing and most anticipated but that just seems kinda random, doesn’t it? What to do then?

Well, let’s keep it simple. Three things I like, three things I don’t like and three things that are just weird. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Shall we?

THE GOOD

A mystical Justice League title by Peter Milligan? Sign me up!

Variety – Sure, there’s plenty of Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and the rest of the usual suspects to go around but there’s also a supernatural Justice League title, a rotating character book in DC Universe Presents, a western, a war comic and even a Dark Ages book. We have a relatively strong presence by the Wildstorm characters and the books under “The Dark” banner contain a more Vertigo-like group of characters. It’s a more diverse set of books compared to the pre-relaunch titles where superheroes dominated far and wide and variety is always a good thing. How some of these titles will fare, however, is another matter entirely.

Creative Teams - Geoff Johns and Jim Lee on Justice League. Grant Morrison and Rags Morales on Action Comics. Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang on Wonder Woman. Those three are probably the most eye-catching of all the relaunched titles in terms of creative teams (and with good reason) but there’s more to it than that. Peter Milligan on Red Lanterns should be loads of fun and Van Sciver and Simone sharing writing duties on Firestorm is sure to be wild and amazing. Then we have up and coming writes such as Jeff Lemire, Paul Cornell and Scott Snyder giving new voices to old characters which is sure to be worth checking out. And, regardless of how I feel about the Babs Gordon mess, I trust Gail Simone on Batgirl.

Digital push - One of the many problems plaguing the comic book industry is its inability to attract new audiences. Sure, superhero movies will give their respective characters a decent sales boost but this is, for all intents and purposes, a fleeting increment and, for the most part, comics cater to their already shrinking core audiences and nothing more. Making every single title available digitally day and date is, thus, a bold step forward and something that DC must be applauded for regardless of some of the issues present in this strategy (pricing and ownership of these digital books among others) and whether it succeeds or not.

THE BAD

Ugh.

Batman + Batman x Batman - I love the ol’ Caped Crusader as much as the next guy but there are a total of 11 books under the Batman umbrella, not including the two Justice League books where Batman is a member or Suicide Squad starring Harley Quinn. That’s 14 titles from the Bat-Universe, which is well over a quarter of the total books that will be launching in September, not to mention Batman Incorporated which will launch later on. How much Batman is too much Batman?

The Costumes – Let’s be fair, there are some really solid redesigns on display here (Mr. Terrific’s new outfit is a huge improvement over the old one) and there are some changes I’m OK with from a rational perspective (Harley Quinn looking more like her Arkham City counterpart, Wonder Woman’s tighter version of the year-old Jim Lee design and Superman’s proper underwear use among others) but a good portion of the outfits are a miss. I lot of noise has been made about the Teen Titans cover where the costumes are such a radical departure from the previous versions that they might as well be new characters, but Black Canary from the Birds of Prey cover looks equally as bad. Ollie’s costume is needlessly complicated (though I prefer the hood over the stupid hat) as is Cyborg’s and the always amazing Cory Walker has at least a dozen versions of Supergirl’s outfit that are better than the one they wound up using. A lot of the these costumes reek of the 90′s but, more importantly and as with most of the relaunch, was there absolutely a need for these changes?

Capullo and Liefeld - I don’t think Capullo is a god-awful artist but, nevertheless, putting him on Batman means I won’t be taking part in Scott Snyder’s potentially amazing run and that’s a shame. And Rob Liefeld? Well, look at the Hawk and Dove cover to the right and let it speak for itself. How he still gets any work from the both Marvel and DC is completely baffling to me. I mean, they must be aware of just how bad an artist he is, right?

THE UGLY

Not even trying to hide that "diversity" push, huh?

No JSA - After years spent building up the JSA into a strong component of the DCU and making us care about these characters (initially by James Robinson but mostly by Geoff Johns), it seems odd that DC has completely ignored all but one of the JSA members. Maybe there wasn’t room for the old guard in this new, younger DCU or maybe they just didn’t want to confuse potential new readers with continuity. Eithey way, it’s a decision that stinks of company politics and that’s a shame.

If it ain’t broke… - There was no doubt going to be casualties in a restructuring as large as this but some of them are hard pills to swallow. Secret Six, Power Girl, Batman Beyond, Xombi, the First Wave books and Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl are but a few of the critically acclaimed books that are noticeably absent from this initial line-up. It’s understandable if sales just aren’t there but there’s something to be said about giving titles room to grow and the comic book industry is just so quick to drop the axe. There is promise of more titles later on so hopefully we’ll see some of these back in some shape or form.

Who? - The DCU is a massive place and there’s absolutely no way to include everyone’s favorite with only 52 titles but I question the reasoning behind some of the characters that are getting their own books. I mean, I’ll let Captain Atom and Grifter slide but O.M.A.C.? Resurrection Man? I, Vampire? And then we have Batwing who is such a ham-fisted attempt at adding racial diversity that I’m not sure whether to be angry or upset. Maybe I’m contradicting my earlier point about variety because having 52 books with only AAA characters would be boring, but there are at least a dozen other characters that I feel are more deserving of their own title. And maybe these books will end up being amazing and I’ll be forced to swallow my words but right now it’s just a little baffling to me.