A few weeks ago DC Comics did a gigantic rebrand/reboot to their entire universe called the New 52, and well, it’s an interesting route to go. I’ve been reading comic books for over 20 years now, and I have a silly amount of comic book knowledge in my head. At heart I’m a Marvel kid, I’ve always been a fan of X-men, and in recent years, all of the Avengers stuff that Brian Michael Bendis is doing. That said, DC has always been doing some great work with Vertigo (which isn’t really DC Comics and shouldn’t be lumped together) and I love what Geoff Johns did with the Green Lantern comics in Blackest Night.
But this New 52? Ugh. I’m going to concentrate on Justice League, which is being written by Geoff Johns, who is basically their main creative, and drawn by Jim Lee, who was basically the most popular comic book artist in the 90’s. Here are some thoughts on Justice League, and I’ll wrap up with some other comics.
DC Comics is owned by AOL Time Warner, one of the largest companies in the world, and Justice League is DC’s flagship title. So why does their logo look like it was made by a high school kid? Title design in comic books has always been lacking, and this just goes to show that there’s little to no movement in that area. I have no idea what that font is, but it couldn’t be more generic. DC Comics and The New 52 are all bright and golden, but the Justice League logo? Little to no care.
The Character Designs
A big deal has been made about the redesign of the characters, all of which were done by Jim Lee. This may have been an insanely big deal… 20 years ago, but Jim Lee hasn’t changed his style in roughly that same amount of time. I know that’s why a lot of comic book readers love Jim Lee, but personally I see that as a being a really bad thing.
The costume redesigns might look different to a long-time reader, but the point of the New 52 is to get new readers on board. I can’t imagine someone unfamiliar with superman thinking that this looks at all different. Why reboot an entire universe if you don’t want to do something new and exciting? Superman’s cape now hangs magically off of his clavicles, he no longer wears red underwear, and there are now all of these weird lines all over this costume… how edgy. I guess there was a giant internal conversation over whether or not Wonder Woman should have to wear pants, which sounds completely sexist to me, and Batman has tech-y gloves. These are really the things that should considered when redefining a character?
I guess I shouldn’t comment too much on the story of just the first issue, but for $4 all I got to see was Batman and Green Lantern making stupid banter for 20 pages, 4 pages of a young Cyborg not-yet-turned-into-Cyborg, and one page of Superman. I’m sure it’s setting up everything but the entire thing felt cliched. Batman being chased by the cops (who have insane weapons) chasing a bad guy trying to get information when Green Lantern comes in and gets all Lantern-y.
When the Marvel started the Ultimate Universe they decided to take familiar characters and themes and twist it. The Ultimate Universe is now what the Marvel movies are being based on and expanding into new markets. It feels like DC is trying to be edgy, but it feels like they’re trying way to hard, like Batman calling the cops “idiots”. Batman is so bad ass.
Overall I feel bad for DC, as it’s bad for comics in general. DC seems like they’re trying really hard, but they’re not doing it right. They’re reusing tired, old comic book cliches and not coming up with any new and exciting ideas. I wish it was exciting and new, I wish they made Marvel look like chumps with an amazing story that surpasses anything they’re doing, but they aren’t, and it’s a shame.
I recently read an interview with Brian Michael Bendis, who in my mind is the smartest, most talented comic book writer out there. He was talking about how he killed off Peter Parker in the Ultimate Universe and replaced him with Miles Morales, a half-black/half-hispanic kid who happens to get powers. This is exactly why I think Marvel is doing the best work these days.
“It’s where my head’s at, man,” he says. “For this genre particularly to matter, it’s gotta feel real. People say, ‘Yeah, if I had powers, this would be my life.’ That was always the magic of Peter Parker and the Marvel era of comics when it first debuted is that if you had powers, you wouldn’t really change all that much. You’d still have the same problems — they’d probably be worse.”
There’s also big missteps like the new, gay Teen Titans character who couldn’t look more stereotypical, they’ve got Rob Liefeld (the worst comic book artist in history) drawing Hawk & Dove again, the Static Shock writer quitting and they keep making these damn Subway advertisements with their characters.
Please DC Comics, get your act together and start telling good stories again.