The New 52/DC Comics is once again patting themselves on the back for a “job well done” with a whole month dedicated to a series of one-shots: last year it was “Zero Month,” this year its “Villains Month.” Last year I decided to evaluate the success of The New 52 with a report card of the inaugural relaunch, so I’ve been eager to do a follow-up in the second year. Does Year 2 of The New 52 improve upon its 75% grade? Let us find out!
At the end of August 2012, Marvel Comics’ big summer event Avengers vs X-Men was nearing its completion, and topped the sales charts for the month. And despite that title retaining its #1 status in September, DC Comics’ “Zero Month” titles gained the rest of the top 10 spots for best-selling comics. It’s not exactly a win, but it’s still commendable. In the first year of The New 52, DC Comics closed the sales gap a bit with Marvel. Year 2 has seen an overall drop in DC’s sales, as well as a drop of 5 percent in terms of unit share difference with Marvel. Still, DC’s sales figures are still better than when they were before The New 52 however; which I’m sure the corporate overlords see as a resounding success. With the amount of complaints from readers and creators however, it doesn’t seem like much of a win.
In the first year of The New 52, a total of ten books were cancelled. Though it is clear the books were axed because of poor reception, DC Comics reaffirmed that this was to maintain the number of 52 titles they put into rotation. Year 2 had around 17 title cancellation announcements, including Demon Knights, Legion of Superheroes and most recently the Injustice: Gods Among Us digital/print comic book.
Along with book cancellations, Year 2 of The New 52 contained many creative team changes and shakeups, some of which have only just been announced in the past week (as of 9/10/13.) Some of these creative changes were amicable and organic, of course. Batman Incorporated #12 closed out the book’s run as well as Grant Morrison’s 7-year Batman epic. Geoff Johns took his leave of Green Lantern in Green Lantern #26, finishing his revitalization of the character that began in 2004. Johns and Morrison also announced ending their runs on ongoing books Aquaman and Action Comics, respectively. Likewise, Brian Brian Buccallato and Francis Manapul will be leaving The Flash after #25.
Not everyone had an easy retirement transition however. In September 2012, scourge of the comic book world Rob Liefeld left all three books he was working on with “Reasons [that] are the same as everyone’s that you hear.” In December, Gail Simone was unceremoniously dropped from Batgirl, and according to rumors was only added back as series writer due to fans’ outrage. Andy Diggle took over as Action Comics writer after Grant Morrison’s departure, but left the series before his first issue even hit the stands. New Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns writer Josh Fialkov also left his books before his first issues were published; this was rumored to be due to DC’s plans to kill Green Lantern John Stewart. And of course, the most recent controversial creative change at DC is the departure of Batwoman team J.H. Williams III and W. Hayden Blackman.
The New 52 was supposed to be about taking risks and shaking things up while remaining true to the core concepts of their characters. But it seems that unless these new ideas involve tie-ins and crossovers to DC’s bestselling books, they are not welcome. Scott Snyder consistently creates blockbuster stories with Batman and DC continues to shoehorn every Bat-title into giant crossover tie-ins, even if that’s not how Snyder had set it up. Geoff Johns is still at the center of the action in The New 52, which is still a good thing; but lately his work has been muddled and mediocre. “Trinity War” was nothing but a bloated prelude to Forever Evil, which itself reads like someone doing a Geoff Johns impersonation.
In its second year, The New 52 still doesn’t seem like a cohesive universe. And with its gatefold covers, 3-D covers and preemptive internet plot spoiling The New 52 just feels like one desperate gimmick after another.
FINAL GRADE: 70% – APPLY YOURSELF DC!