A few weeks ago, in a Comics Shop News cover story on DC's New 52 that pretty much just regurgitated the company's press releases, I ran across this little gem of particularly egregious self-serving corporate double speak attempting to rationalize the decision to restart their two longest running titles with new first issues: "Counting issue numbers is focusing on the past, not the future." Now, it struck me that if the editorial poobahs at DC really believed the swill that their public relations hacks apparently expect the average drooling fanboy to swallow whole without questions, then why are they even bothering to number the new series? If issue numbers really are as irrelevant as they say, then why not, instead of 52 new #1s, simply put out 52 new "November 2011" issues? If they really want to shake things up and usher in a new age of comics, then why not just eliminate issue numbers altogether? This would drastically alter not only the new comics market, but the secondary collectors and back issue scene as well. Just as DC's previous launches and relaunches of its super-hero books have ushered in the the beginnings and/or endings of the various historical ages of comics; with Action Comics #1 and the debut of Superman ushering in the Golden Age, the second Flash's first appearance in Showcase #4 heralding the arrival of the Silver Age, and the conclusion of Crisis On Infinite Earths sounding the death knell of the Bronze Age; so is there potential, most likely doomed, sadly, to remain unrealized, for the latest relaunch to truly change the landscape of American comics.
Of course, it doesn't seem as if DC is really all that interested in changing things quite that much. In fact, the whole relaunch, rather than being the harbinger of a bold new era in the industry, seems pretty much like business as usual. I read an article somewhere on-line, and I wish I could remember where so that I could link to it, that referred to the 90s and the first decade of the new millennium as the "Age of Reiteration," marked by the two major publishers endlessly revising, revamping, rebooting, reconfiguring, relaunching, and rejiggering their tried and true, shop worn old wares. The DC relaunch just might, therefore, in spite of itself usher in a new era by virtue of being the logical and inevitable end result of that process, thus forcing the publishers to find new methods to temporarily increase interest in the same old super-hero tripe.
I doubt it, however. The comics industry is in a rut. "Business as usual" has kept the comics industry's head just barely above water for the past quarter century. The so-called "Modern Age" of comics has lingered like a bad odor since the mid-80's, longer than any of the previous ages, and the publishers seem to lack the vision to come up with a truly viable alternative to the old ways. This probably isn't the last renumbering we'll see. Despite all of DC's vociferous protestations that they in no way ever intend to revert to the old numbering, I can't imagine that in about eight years they'll be able to resist hyping the 1000th issue of Action Comics.