Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Comics! An End and a Beginning!

Well, that much-heralded day is finally here: the day when DC Comics concludes its game-changing mini-series "Flashpoint" and begins its month-long roll-out of 52 new titles in 52 new first issues, including Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #1 - Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman #1. The whole new works of DC's entire line, all starting at #1.

The final issue of "Flashpoint" is the springboard - it gives us the maguffin that DC will use to create an entirely new continuity filled with new versions of its old (in some cases, very old) heroes and villains. That maguffin (no surprise here, considering the mini-series' name) is the Flash's ability to run so fast he can actually move backward in time. After almost an entire issue of meaningless general fisticuffs (notable mainly because the alternate-world Batman and the alternate-world Superman both kill somebody they could easily have incapacitated), the Flash races to repair the time-line only to be told by a mysterious hooded woman that he can't - that the 'three time lines' (DC Comics plus its Vertigo and Wildstorm imprints, as far as I can tell) have to merge into one new continuity (a new continuity in which the Flash himself is obviously much, much slower - perhaps meant to close the door on the temptation to use him in order to re-create the old continuity tomorrow).

So strongly did I not want that whole re-alignment to happen that when I got to the end of "Flasthpoint" I almost convinced myself that it hadn't happened - for a moment, it was possible to think "Flashpoint" had been all along just what it looked like at the start: just another clever alternate-reality 'what if'-kind of story, with no bearing whatsoever on the DC comics I knew and loved. But at the end of the issue, both the Flash and Batman are wearing those absurd, over-busy variations of their familiar costumes - and although the Flash remembers the alternate world we saw in "Flashpoint," neither he nor Batman remember DC's old reality. So that door is closed, and we're all firmly on the other side of it, in the world of the "new 52." I can stubbornly hope it'll open again some day (if, for instance, comics fans collectively reject this whole scheme), but it won't be any time soon, so I turned to the first issue of that new reality with a wary kind of resolution.

That first issue is "Justice League" #1, written by Geoff Johns and drawn with wonderful virtuosity by Jim Lee, here doing even better work than the epic stuff he turned out for Frank Miller's recent "Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder" series - a gritty, dystopian series that's clearly the ideological ancestor of this new continuity. We're told that this first issue is taking place "Five Years Ago," at the dawn of the new super-hero age when the civilian authorities don't know what to make of these super-powered vigilantes popping up in their midst. A brash, cocky Green Lantern flies to Gotham City in pursuit of an 'unauthorized' alien presence his ring detected there, only to find the urban legend Batman already fighting the thing. Green Lantern is astonished to learn that Batman has no super-powers, and the two quickly encounter the "new 52" version of Superman, who appears on the issue's last page wondering what Batman can 'do' - what super-powers he has.

I have no idea if "Justice League" is going to remain five years in the past, no idea how long Johns is going to take assembling his team (if he learned anything from Brad Meltzer's disastrous launch of "Justice League" a few years ago, he'll get that assembling done in a fairly brisk fashion). The pace of this first issue is fairly brisk, but most individual comic-books are now being back-driven by the graphic novels they will become the instant their story-lines are finished, so I bet we can count on this first getting-to-know-you plot lasting at least six issues. Superman still has to learn to trust Batman and Green Lantern; Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash still have to make their appearances; Vic Stone still has to become Cyborg - that's a lot of stuff that still needs to happen, and all of it disjointed, since this first look we're getting at the 'new 52' continuity is one long flashback to five years in its past. Thirteen more #1 issues roll out next week - will they all be set in this same five-year-ago past, or will they be set in the new continuity's present, when the Justice League is presumably established respected? No idea - I'll find out when I read those issues.

And then I'll write about them - sadly, but resolutely.


Mike said...

This whole thing just breaks my heart. My uncle, who was only a few years older than me, always had a big stash of DC comics when I was growing up and I imprinted on them like a baby chick. The thing is, these new characters aren't emerging from whatever places those first creators (dare I say the Founding Fathers) came from. Instead of fresh it feels recycled. Well, we'll see.

justin said...

Johns and Lee are DC's new creative co-runners. From what rumblings I've heard, they want character to come first. It's likely a line-wide mandate. My hopes are high!

Comics! History in the Making! | stevereads said...

[...] some of you have been reading here, DC Comics has decided to re-invent all of their core characters for the 21st century, most [...]

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