Tag Archives: New 52

Top o’ the Lot: The “Worst” of The New 52

From time to time Outright Geekery brings you a slanted and biased opinion on some trivially specific topic of geekery. We call it Outright Geekery’s Top o’ the Lot.

It doesn’t seem like that very long ago at all that DC Comics announced their plans to relaunch every single title in their comic book line. Despite those feelings, however, the New 52 is, in fact, ending, and while we took a look back at the best books that were part of the initial launch of the moniker, this week we’re looking at those New 52 launch titles that should have lasted, but just didn’t finish the race. DC threw its best and brightest characters and talent at readers, and while a lot of it ended up making it all the way to the New 52’s end, a few brilliant stars burned out way sooner than we wanted them to. So, without further ado, we love good writing, adore quality artwork, and are really going to miss that logo, in Outright Geekery’s Top o’ the Lot: The “Worst” of the New 52.New 52 Logo Continue reading Top o’ the Lot: The “Worst” of The New 52

Advertisements

Top o’ the Lot: The Best of The New 52

From time to time Outright Geekery brings you a slanted and biased opinion on some trivially specific topic of geekery. We call it Outright Geekery’s Top o’ the Lot.

It doesn’t seem like that very long ago at all that DC Comics announced their plans to relaunch every single title in their comic book line. Despite those feelings, however, the New 52 is, in fact, ending, and we’re taking a look back at the best books that were part of the initial launch of the moniker. DC threw its best and brightest characters and talent at readers, and while a lot of it ended up in the dumper, a few brilliant stars shined through the fog of crap. So, without further ado, we love good writing, adore quality artwork, and are really going to miss that logo, in Outright Geekery’s Top o’ the Lot: The Best of the New 52.New 52 Logo

 

Continue reading Top o’ the Lot: The Best of The New 52

Opinion: DC’s Weekly Release Strategy and Why It’s Going to Fail

DC Comics Logo

There’s always a reason why a company does things differently. Some want to set themselves apart from their competition. Some see an empty niche that can be filled and exploited. Some are answering the requests of their customers. No matter the reason for doing things differently, ALL companies are in business to make money. Therefore, logically speaking, companies do things differently to raise their bottom-line; to make more money. This is certainly the goal of DC Comics, and the thing they are doing differently is launching several series of comics that will be released each and every week, instead of the traditional once per month. While DC Comics has tried the whole weekly release comics in the past, the sheer number of weekly books DC plans on releasing in 2014 shows that the publisher is putting a lot of its eggs in this basket. Here’s a rundown of DC’s weekly release strategy and some reasons it’s going to fail.

The Books

Batman Eternal

IBatman Eternalt all begins in April as DC releases the brand new title Batman Eternal on each of the 4 Wednesdays after the first one. That’s 4 more Batman comic books a month to go along with Batman-proper, Detective Comics, Batman/Superman, and the Batman and… title that’s starred a revolving cast since Damian Wayne’s untimely death. The writing staff for this book is immense with Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Ray Fawkes, Kyle Higgins, John Layman, and Tim Seeley all on the book. Whew, that’s a ton of writers! But for a weekly book I guess you need a ton of help. Jason Fabok, on the other hand, will be doing the artwork in the first 4 issues, but 4 (count ’em, four) different artists are doing issues #5 though #8, making this an all-inclusive title when it comes to creative force.

But is this going to be a successful book for the long-haul? With 6 writers and 5 artists working on just the first 8 issues of Batman Eternal it won’t be hard for this title to get away from the creators and, more importantly, an editorial staff with a weekly deadline. And with 4 other Batman titles on shelves every month for readers to pick-up there’s plenty of opportunity for readers to simply get their Bat-fix elsewhere; an elsewhere without the 4 issue a month investment; an elsewhere without the inconsistency in creators.

The New 52: Futures End

Futures EndMay brings us another weekly comic debut from DC, The New 52: Futures End, which is promising to give readers a look 5 years into the future of the DC Universe, where the impacts of the war with another world that was Forever Evil are still being dealt with, and Batman Beyond comes to help a huge cast of DC’s finest save the day. This book too has a big creative team, with Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens, Brian Azzarello, and Jeff Lemire on writing duties, and 7 (count ’em, 7) artists on just the first 4 issues. Batman Beyond making his New 52 debut and keeping up with the continuity of an event as good as Forever Evil are the shining gems on what is looking to be something that could have a mass appeal across the various flavors of DC readers.

But is this going to be successful over the long-haul? This book has the same problems with consistency and editorial pressure of Batman Eternal, and that could damage some of its overall success. Beyond that (pun intended), because of the introduction of Terry McGinnes and the robust cast, this is going to be the most successful of the weeklies DC plans on releasing in 2014, and, at 4 extra books a month, that’s quite enough. But they ain’t done yet!

Unnamed October Weekly

Superman Future's EndRemember Villain’s Month? When every single issue of every single DC comic book changed and became about the villains for an issue or three? Well, DC is doing it again in September, and each book will jump ahead 5 year into the future, giving readers insight on what “might” happen with their favorite characters. And in October, they’re launching a weekly series to follow-up this Future Month event that will be connected to the previously mentioned weekly released title, The New 52: Futures End. Little else is known about this particular weekly title, for obvious reasons, but it’s worth recapping: DC is releasing a weekly in May, that will include a month long event that will take over each and every DC comic in the month of September, followed by another weekly comic debut in October. That’s a lot of books!

But is it going to be successful in the long-haul? Odds are, for this book, the answer to that question is “NO”. Villain’s Month was successful for one reason and one reason only: Cool covers! The month-long takeover part of this whole thing will certainly provide that, but afterwards the thing that will ultimately sell this book week in and week out is quality which leads me to my overarching opinion on why DC Comics’ weekly release strategy is going to backfire.

Why It’s Going to Fail

I’m not completely against going against the grain and doing things a bit differently. No All-New-Marvel-Now-logomatter how much I hate the practice, Marvel Comics has been renumbering and relaunching comics for years in an attempt to boost sales numbers and grow readership, and they’ve reached a certain level of success with that recipe. I’m of the mindset that if a comic is a quality read it will gain the readership it deserves, but the sales figures show that #1’s sell more books. The sale charts ALSO show, however, that quality, above all else, is what sells comics, with only temporary sales boosts coming from those relaunches and renumbers. Now, I don’t want to have the discussion about comic shops ordering more first issues with most of them still sitting in their back-issue bins compared to readers trying but simply not falling in love with a #1’s, although both will be part of my reasoning for believing DC will ultimately fail with their own unique method.

So, we’ve established that issue #1’s sell, but, as Marvel’s technique has suggested, it’s difficult to bring new readers to a book once the numbering gets too high. If you get behind in a story it’s hard to catch up. So I find it quite illogical for DC to put all their eggs into a single month or two, which is basically what they are doing. I have no doubt that the firstNew 52 Logo issue of each of these weeklies is going to be stellar, but it’s going to be tough to make each issue, each week, live up to the value of the investment. There’s far too many books to choose from each and every week to stay devoted to something requiring such a huge investment if it doesn’t stay entertaining or, more importantly, consistent. And with so many creators needed for this kind of release schedule it’s hard to do that. There are a lot of reasons to drop any of these titles along the way to their year-long, 52 issue+, ends, and not much reason at all to start reading them once they get just a month or two in. I can see picking up four issues of a run if I hear it’s an absolute must-read, but if it’s two months in, I cannot possibly swing that kind of investment in a single purchase, and I doubt many comic readers can. And there’s no guarantee readers are going to jump on any of these titles from their starts.

Batman Eternal, one of the weeklies in question, is the hardest sell for me. Batman already has SOOO many titles that a weekly is almost too much. I’m sure the Batman diehards, and I know there are plenty of them, will buy it, but it’s a tough sale for the comic fan on a budget with so much to choose from on Wednesday afternoons. It could be argued that the other weekly titles hitting in 2014 have a steeper road to climb because of their close association with some DC events, but I think this works for them. World-building is great for the publisher as a whole! I just don’t think it’s an easy sell for readers either way. If you include the month-long event, this is an even bigger investment than getting all the Batman titles, including the new weekly. It goes back to the same problem that has suffered the industry for years: Stagnant market growth. And that’s really the bottom-line.

The Verdict

I think each of these books is going to have a fantastic initial launch. The launches of each of them for a month, maybe even two, will fill out the Top 5 to 10 spots on the sale charts for those months. But this is going to quickly drop off, followed by steadily dropping month after month until the finality of the title. And what’s worse is that readers will just stop buying one title to make up for the cost of any weeklies they pick up. Granted, some of those titles may be Marvel or, perish the thought, Image titles, but the spike to overall market share will be slim to none over the stretch of the whole year. The one thing that throws a wrench into this whole crazy thinking of mine is quality. If the books are great they’re going to sell, and that’s a good thing! I hope I’m wrong! But, like I said before, if the books DC was currently putting out were of a higher quality, and there are plenty of them out there, there would be no need to do anything differently at all.

Of course, DC’s plan is a direct counter to Marvel’s current renumber/relaunch strategy, a DC-Marvel Eventsmethod unavailable to DC due to the painting themselves into the New 52 corner, but I give them credit. Their embracing their brand by building on what works (ie. Batman and events) and keeping up with ideas that aren’t really that new. 52 and Countdown to Crisis weren’t necessarily failures, but DC wasn’t as invested in those then as they appear to be investing now. Time will ultimately tell, and I want these books to be great, I honestly do! I just have the sinking feeling, and some evidence, that it’s going to be a huge dud.

Opinion: DC’s Segmented and Sticky Path

DC Comics Logo

Since the launch of DC Comics’ New 52 reboot, readers have dealt with a lot of changes, and while I don’t want to make this post about the quality of the reboot as a whole, it’s probably going to come off that way. No, I want to bring some attention to comparisons and the publishing approach that distinguishes the New 52 in both tone and style. Although DC has tried the whole reboot deal several times in the past, the first 30 or so months of the publisher’s latest reboot show a degree of premeditation, appreciation, and dedication not seen in other reboot attempts, while the future promises more of the same.

The Past

CrisisCrisis on Infinite Earths, Zero Hour, Hypertime, Infinite Crisis, Flashpoint the list goes on. Yes, DC Comics has rebooted their entire universe to some extent or another time after time with, more often than not, less than stellar results. While there were plenty of problems with all of these reboots – Donna Troy and Hawkman; a messed up Superman, and a de-aged JSA come to mind – most of the problems stemmed from one very important detail missing from the plan: An actual plan! There may have been a narrow guide or a rudimentary outline at some point during the brainstorming sessions that ultimately lead to these reboots, but it’s safe to say that the follow-through succeeding the event itself ultimately lead to just another reboot, and that qualifies it as an out-and-out fail in my book. So, what makes The New 52 so different? Having a plan and unabashedly sticking to it.

The Promise

DC originally marketed the New 52 as a “soft reboot” and not a full on reboot and revamp of the entire universe. Some things from the past, like the War of the Green Lanterns and Batman: A Death in the Family, would stick and some things wouldn’t, but DC never really made the extent of that adherence to continuity completely known. This allowed them to pick and choose story elements from the past without allowing other, less “important”, elements to become obstacles. DC promised to make their storied history be a help to their creators not a hindrance to creativity as it’s been in the past. That’s not to say that New 52 Logothey threw everything out the window; these characters are still recognizable as the ones we’ve all known and loved for years; but having opportunities to tell early tales of Superman as seen in Action Comics and retelling Batman’s origin in Zero Year, as well as revisiting Wonder Woman’s origin and changing the entire status quo of the Green Lanterns, have been amazingly entertaining comics that just would not have been possible prior to DC adhering to their New 52 continuity policy. That liberal policy in regards to continuity, however, as flexible it’s been with its use of DC’s storied and convoluted history, hasn’t impacted the self-contained continuity the New 52 itself has created, and it’s all part of DC’s push to appreciate their fans.

The Push

It’s logical to assume that DC had a problem reaching fans prior to the New 52 reboot. There’s obviously no reason to reboot the line if fans are buying books that make up that line. So, DC decided to listen to fans, and while they kept the continuity fans liked the most, they understood that, despite the quality of any comic book, fans still want continuity. There’s a certain appeal to having the characters all exist in the same world, and, of course, DC wants to take advantage of this aspect oThe New 52 Coverf superhero comics, but there has to be some “stickiness” to the whole thing. Although readers handle differing degrees of continuity very differently, DC has done an amazing job of keeping New 52 continuity faithful across all of their books. The adherence to this aspect of continuity has been stringent, with Hal Jordan stuck in space when he’d be better as a marquee character in Forever Evil, and Superman having to overcome at least a few obstacles setup in early issues of Action Comics, but it’s also lead to some rewards, with Simon Baz getting a brighter spotlight, and Superman/Wonder Woman even being a thing. They couldn’t just come up with new, exciting things, they had to find new and exciting things within their current continuity, something solidly missing from DC’s line pre-New 52. And that seems to be continuing as the very popular Nightwing see its last issue drop in the wake of the character’s upcoming death in Forever Evil. But continuity isn’t the only thing DC has changed to appeal to fans. The publisher listened, found what’s resonating with fans, and acted.

The Publishing

An Aquaman event last year, a Superman/Wonder Woman title, and Constantine even being a character in the DCU proper are all evidence that DC not only listened to their fans but acted on what was heard. That isn’t the only way they have acted either, and DC has ended many fan-favorite comics over the past two plus years, including Static ShockBlue Beetle Lee + Johnsand two Legion titles, simply because they didn’t resonate with enough fans. While this is no real change to what publishers do all the time, they have replaced titles just as quickly, looking to gives fans something great. A recent example of DC’s faithfulness to keeping their content fresh and relevant is the publisher ending 6 books in April – Justice League of America, Nightwing, Suicide Squad, Superman Unchained, Stormwatch, and Teen Titans – and replacing them with titles fans have specifically shown an interest in – Aquaman and the Others, Justice League United, Secret Origins, and Sinestro. DC’s appreciation to their fans in giving them exactly what they ask for is only eclipsed by the publisher’s dedication to keeping that ideal an active part of their entire publishing approach, and the key to that approach is portion control.

The Portioning

No, not that kind of portion control; I’m talking about “title portion control”. There are currently 9 DC comic books in the Justice League portion, 13 in the Bat-family of titles, 7 in Superman’s section, 5 in Green Lantern, and 6 or so in what DC has labeled “The Dark”, but this hasn’t always been the case. Looking over the various cancellations and new additions to these “families” of books over the years DC not only takes care in ending books that don’t work and consistently replacing them, but also assures that each of these Forever_Evil_1families of titles remains strong and uniquely distinct. Even failed segments like what DC calls “The Edge” and the all but defunct “Young Justice” segment of books were given a solid chance at success with a combined 15 titles launched and cancelled since the New 52 began, and two more cancellations due in April. This only underscores DC’s overall no holds barred approach when it comes to spinning their ever-revolving lineup. DC takes their whole portioning method a step further when it comes to how the publisher handles events. Forever Evil, while it had its share of limited series tie-ins, has been limited to the Justice League family of titles, with the Forever Evil: Blight crossover event occurring only within the pages of The Dark family of books, with never the two meeting. This trend has been fairly constant throughout the New 52: Night of the Owls, Death of the Family, Zero Year, and the upcoming Gothopia are all in the Batman-family; Rise of the Third Army, Wrath of the First Lantern, and Lights Out all played out in GL books; He’l on Earth, Throne of Atlantis, and Rotworld all happened within their own specific category of titles. This has done a great deal to help DC reach new levels of success by avoiding the problems they ran into with other reboots, namely, missing the mark on continuity, ignoring fan requests, and not actively and effectively supporting their numerous and varied brands. This, of course, leads me to one simple worry: They’ll never be able to keep it up.

The Prospective

There’s trouble on the horizon for DC’s current success under this methodology bought about with the New 52. Although they’ve done an incredible job so far, it’s only been 30 months, and there’s some literal and figurative cleaning up to do. Forever Evil will surely end with the good guys winning by the end, but the Earth is in ruins, and, as the rules DC Five Years Laterthemselves have suggested with their entire approach to the New 52 reboot, things will certainly have to change equally as much as they have been impacted, and that’s a whole lot. That means an arc of Batman with Bruce coping with yet another death and dealing with Bane in the aftermath of Arkham War, no more self-contained mega-events or new origin stories to get readers’ attention. That means dealing with things in books like Justice League and Superman/Wonder Woman in meaningful ways. That means putting Lex Luthor on a pedestal, and exploring everyone’s new favorite Kryptonian clone. Those are big shoes to fill, but DC cobbled those slippers all on their own, and probably just because fans devour events. If the big moments and major impacts that made Forever Evil compelling don’t stick, it takes away from everything DC has built with the New 52. I’m not saying it’s impossible, and “big changes” have been promised, but seeing is believing, and DC has not made it easy on themselves. Another problem I see in DC’s future is doing too much crossing over between their individual categories, and the upcoming Supergirl/Red Lanterns crossover, while intriguing a story as it is, may start a trend that could quickly become as unwieldy as anything pre-reboot. And what about DC’s next rumored event, Five Years Later? As difficult as it must be adhering to their current approach, adding a future facet to the whole endeavor won’t make anything easier.

The Punchline

Batman LaughingYeah, I remember, I said this wasn’t going to be a post about the quality of the New 52 reboot, but that promise turned out to be a lie; a joke, really. The very thought of a brief about the publishing approach of DC Comics latest reboot simply cannot be made without a critique of the quality of the books that make up that reboot. But DC is doing something completely different with the New 52, and, as long as it lasts, it’s an amazing ride. Twists, turns, surprises, disappointments. It’s like Disney World, with all it’s unique and different, yet singularly alike, Lands, but in this amusement park they swap out the crappy rides every few months. Now, no one knows if the company can continue to respect the same method that lead them to their current level of success in the wake of such dramatic, universe-wide changes, but that takes nothing away from the ground-breaking success DC has already had in their latest reboot, and it’s been a very long time coming.

All-In Review: The Flash, Volume 4

Flash_ 1 Cover

DC Comics New 52 revamp hit the scene in 2011 with a completely new take on some of the best characters in comics. While there were many surefire winners among the bunch before a single New 52 comic landed on store shelves, many more started out needing to prove themselves to readers. A noteworthy member of the latter group was The Flash, and it was difficult to really get an idea of how good the title would be in this brave New 52 world because the creators given the title were, in a word, untested. Writers/Artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato may have shown some chops on art in other DC books, and writing prowess on some Indie offerings, but taking the reins of one of the most well-known and beloved characters in all of comics is a different animal altogether. Without a doubt, however, The Flash quickly became one of the standout books in all of the New 52, and, with Manapul and Buccellato leaving the book with issue 25, it’s a good time to take a look at the entire Manapul/Buccellato run (pun intended) on The Flash, and, man, was it a great ride!

The GoodThe Flash Intro

The art on this title was some of the best stuff DC was putting out from month to month. Francis Manapul’s work on pencils was consistently a tour de force.While the title pages of each and every issue offer brilliant examples of just how good the art on this title was, Manapul’s sketches spotlight just how amazing a job these two did. The Flash Title Page The Flash Francis Manapul SketchThese creators simply understood The Flash on every level. The speed of the character screams off of each and every page, and, really, isn’t that what we want from this character? Not only was the art always on point, but the line-up of Flash characters was bountiful and simultaneously gave long-time Flash fanboys exactly what they expected out of a Flash comic, while giving brand-new readers an easy to handle, spot-on concise, entry into the life of Barry Allen. We got great glimpses of Barry’s troubled past, and the fire that burns inside him that keeps him fighting for justice. We got a whole lot of the Flash-family, and most of the motley crew of friends and villains were highlighted. But best of all, we got to see some great takes on some tried and true (some may say “tired and overused”) aspects of the character’s life, and new spins on powers and the Speed Force itself made for some great story-telling.

The Bad

The Flash Grodd While the creators certainly put the focus on art, and although the stories told were not in any way terrible, there was always a feeling that the stories being told were lacking in some way. Perhaps it had to do with so much being thrown into the title over the two years Manapul and Buccellato were on the book, as they included not only Captain Cold but his entire team of Rogues, Gorilla Grodd, and Reverse Flash among others, but also built much of the story around Barry’s pals, like Iris, Patty, and others. They spent so much time including as many Flash characters as possible that the stories built around those characters suffered. Yeah, we got all those characters that we so wanted to see, but we never really got the full story behind those characters. I would have loved to see less characters and more stories The Flash Reverse Flashabout those characters. This direction taken by the creators suggests they used the introduction of timeless characters to The New 52 Flash-verse as a crutch to help carry the title in lieu of actually building a more solid story. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing Grodd, Reverse Flash, Iris, Patty and the rest of the characters associated with The Flash, but I honestly would have liked to see them do more.

The Verdict

While this run may not go down as one of the most eventful runs of The Flash, it will definitely go down as one of the best, if not THE best, work on art Flash has ever seen. Surely that’s because the art team was also doing the writing on the title, and the art was the first and foremost responsibility of the creative team, and, while that story doesn’t live up to expectations, the art more than makes up for any failings in that department. This run on The Flash is a feast for the eyes, which is the primary draw for this book. Now that this team has been replaced by a more traditional writer/artist team the “art before story” method of creating will surely change, so, if you’re looking for a better Flash story, you may want to wait. But, if you are looking for the hands-down best work on art Flash has ever seen you should pick up this run in trades. The story utilizes enough characters and story ideas to keep a reader interested and informed, but even if this run didn’t have a single word balloon or word of text, it would still be a fantastic addition to any comic book lovers collection just because the work on art is that damned good. While it may not go down as one of the best Flash stories in even recent memory, the first two years of The Flash Volume 4 will go down as some of the best artwork in the history of the character.