Thursday, June 18, 2015

DC - A step in the right direction

It's been some time since I wrote about my thoughts on what's going on with DC Comics. I first wrote about it when they did the "New 52" relaunch back in 2011. A year later, I wrote a follow-up. That's nearly three years now. So, what happened?

I found myself getting kind of bored with a lot of the books, and I was picking up fewer and fewer titles. I was only reading the main Batman series (although I picked up Batman and Robin when Damien Wayne was brought back to life). I stopped reading Wonder Woman after the first few issues after Brian Azarello left. Also, I only made it through the first story arc of Green Lantern after Geoff Johns left. (I wasn't interested in another big crossover with all the other Lantern books. Plus, I really don't think that Billy Tan is a good choice for the art.)

I bought the first few issues of Convergence but couldn't muster up a reason to care about that particular crossover one way or the other. Supposedly it ended with Crisis on Infinite Earths never having happened? Yawn.

But now I'm starting to get a bit excited again because DC is doing two important things:

1. Not being slaves to continuity.
2. Letting the creators give their books a distinctive personality.

It's a bit too early to say that this is going to be a line-wide transformation, but the initial indicators are good. Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo has already put a definite signature on the character who has been reinvented a million times. Things really started to look up with the creative team of Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr on Batgirl. That series feels like an indie book, and while it definitely has ties to the overall Batman franchise, it's not a slave to it. It has its own thing going on and doesn't feel like simply an opportunity to print cash based on Bruce Wayne's popularity.

Some other promising signs include getting Gene Luen Yang as the writer over on Superman. One of these days soon, I'll have to write "Read These Comics!" entries on his Boxers & Saints and American Born Chinese. The new Black Canary series is unlike any other thing I've seen with Brenden Fletcher (him again!) and Annie Wu at the helm. Even Bryan Hitch's totally mainstream Justice League of America is something that proudly bears the hallmarks of its creator. Yeah, he's doing bread and butter, big-screen superhero stuff, but it's what he does best, and it's looking good so far.

As for continuity, co-publisher Dan Didio has stated that: “In this new era of storytelling, story will trump continuity as we continue to empower creators to tell the best stories in the industry”. This is a smart move. Look, I remember when I was a kid reading The Amazing Spider-Man (sorry to reference Marvel in a DC post, but I was reading Marvel first) and Peter Parker was warned by Matt Murdock (Daredevil) that the Kingpin was likely to be coming after him, as it was a brief tie-in to the "Born Again" story over in DD's own comic. It was neat to see that the adventures of these heroes all took place in a larger world, and what would happen in one series would affect what would happen in another.

The only problem is that continuity can be a burden. Perhaps it wouldn't be such a problem if the characters aged like real people, but they don't. Ultimately, the stories are going to start contradicting one another. Also, if Bryan Hitch has a really cool story for the Justice League, and it requires the use of the Hal Jordan Green Lantern, he shouldn't have to settle for a different one. DC can continue to do crossover, but each title really should be able to stand on its own and creator compromises should be kept to a minimum.

I'm not sure why DC is taking this path. Perhaps they realized that the hype of the New 52 was unsustainable? Perhaps they're trying to woo back fans like me, who like their superheroes but find some of the artistic freedoms over at publishers like Image Comics to be a bit more intriguing? Who knows, but let's hope it all sells well so they can keep experimenting and we can see all our favorite characters in some exciting new stories.

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