Sunday, June 26, 2011

They Finally Did It: The DC Relaunch

Jim Lee's Justice League
I can picture Marv Wolfman sitting at bar nursing a drink and saying to the drunken middle-aged businessman next to him for the umpteenth time, "The whole thing was my idea, y'know.  I wanted to do it 25 years ago," as the man tries to ignore him and concentrate instead on how he's going to tell his wife that he has lost his job, faces indictment on multiple charges and just lost the house and kids in a poker game.  
What Marv is talking about in the fictional scenario above is the news that has had the comics blogosphere abuzz with speculation for the past couple of weeks:  the recent announcement by DC Comics that they are going to be re-starting their entire line with 52 new #1 issues come September.  I'm coming a little late to the game, as its been at least two weeks, an eternity in cyber-space, since DC dropped this particular bombshell, but below are some of my thoughts on the news.
Wolfman did, in fact, propose such a line wide re-numbering to follow his re-alignment of the DC Universe in 1985's Crisis On Infinite Earths.  As we know, DC higher ups rejected the idea at the time. In retrospect, it might have been better to go ahead and reboot the entire line at once rather than revamping each character one by one over the course of the next decade.  Ultimately this practice made DC's continuity even more convoluted and confusing than it supposedly was before Crisis.  
Truthfully, I didn't find DC's pre-Crisis Universe, or, rather, Multiverse, confusing at all.  I was ten when I first encountered a JLA/JSA crossover and the concept of multiple Earths with different sets of heroes, and I had no trouble grasping the concept at all.  I thought the Multiverse was a really cool concept.  In fact, at first, I thought that eliminating it in Crisis was a really bad idea.  What made me accept it was that Crisis turned out to be one of the greatest super-hero comics ever published.
Anyway, getting back to the topic at hand, since '85, DC has sort of flirted with Wolfman's idea a couple of times.  In 1994, following the absolutely horrid Zero Hour crossover, they had "Zero Month" in which every DC Universe title published that month was a #0 and featured a new beginning for the characters or a re-telling of their origin or some aspect of their past.  Then following the even more horrid Infinite Crisis (or, as I refer to it, Infinite Crappiness), DC pulled the "One Year Later" stunt, which, as the name suggests, jumped all the DCU titles forward in time by one year.  The slightly less horrid 52 was then published to fill in the story of that missing year.
Now, of course, they have, for some reason, decided that the time is right to at last take the plunge and restart the whole kit and kaboodle from the beginning.  Like the stunts mentioned above, this move is tied to a big crossover, occurring on the heels of the currently on-going Flashpoint event.  
What would have been a daring and radical move had they done it back when Wolfman wanted to these days seems more like the natural progression and logical end of the trends in the comics industry since that time.  Nearly every title from both major publishers has been renumbered, rebooted, revamped , reconfigured or rejiggered at least once in the past quarter century.  You could probably fill a longbox just with all the various Captain America first issues alone. 
Yes, if I'm going to be perfectly frank (and if I'm not, what's the point of writing a blog), rather than being the bold, visionary step that the DC Unholy Trinity of Dan Didio, Jim Lee and Geoff Johns  obviously want us to see this relaunch as, the whole stunt carries about it just more than a slight stink of desperation; a last ditch effort to generate the fan interest that the actual comics themselves consistently fail to and get the non-comics reading world to pay them some atttention.   DC could, as they did with Crisis, win me over by producing some really great comics.  However, based on the info they've released about the 52 new titles so far, I see few chances for that to happen. I'll get into some of my thoughts about a few of the new titles in a future post.

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