Friday, November 18, 2011

Numbers Game

As you know, a couple of months ago DC Comics canceled all of its DC Universe series and re-started each with a new number one. (Well, not all of them. Some were swept away in the tide.) There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth but, in the time since, it is worth noting that the sky has not fallen.

I admit that I regretted losing the advanced numbering of Action Comics and Detective Comics (each of which had been published and numbered continuously since the late 1930s)  as well as entirely losing the only-recently-reborn Adventure Comics. But I tried to take a wait-and-see attitude.

This radical move was certainly an act of desperation on the part of DC. They had been producing many quality comics all along but had long struggled ineffectively to loosen Marvel's stranglehold on the list of Top Ten Sellers each month. To DC's credit, they did discard some chaff that had been being published merely out of habit.

Sales have been robust on the new series and it has allowed DC to march right on into that Top Ten in a decisive way. Titles that had been limping along (like Superman, for heaven's sake) have been re-energized, while some characters that had been dormant for a few years (like Swamp Thing) have been successfully brought back onto the playing field. Some titles that absolutely nobody had been clamoring for (like Hawk and Dove and Resurrection Man) found themselves to be luckily riding the wave in, and it's curious that not a single brand new character has been introduced yet, but still most of the "New 52" have been impressing me in a very positive way. 

I applaud DC for the fan-sensitive way they implemented the changes in their continuity. The Flashpoint Conceit of a cosmic reset button being hit (but not all the crystals growing in exactly the same way they previously had) is kind of fun. Marvel Comics, on the other hand, preferred to have their cake and eat it too when they continued publishing their long-running series but additionally presented new "Ultimate" versions of the old characters; out of protest against Marvel's blatant and crass commercialism I have refused to buy any of those Ultimate comics in the many years they have been running (the sole exception being whatever that miniseries was that Art Adams drew because it was just too beautifully drawn to resist).

I have two particular favorites among DC's New 52. With little success DC has tried reviving the Swamp Thing series a few times since Rick Veitch was on the book in the 1980s, but I'm here to tell you that the new storyline is the best one the character has had in these past twenty-five years (or maybe even longer). And the new Firestorm series is the best one that that character has ever had; there are now two Firestorm characters that under certain circumstances merge to become the monstrous Fury of Firestorm (somewhat reminiscent of how Jack Kirby's Forever People could collectively decide to bow out and be replaced by The Infinity Man).

I'm all in favor of good comic that are fun to read. Despite a few missteps in the New 52, DC is now providing me with even more good comics today than they were a few months ago before the changeover. I'm keeping my finger on the pulse but, even at this early juncture, I feel ready to proclaim that DC's New 52 is a creative success.


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