Friday, September 16, 2011

DC Comics: The New 52 - Justice League #1

I have to say that I can’t recall seeing commercials on TV for comic books since the early eighties, when Marvel Comics did one for G. I. Joe: A Real American Hero #1. I didn’t see much point to that one, and I didn’t see much point to the current one for DC Comics’ “The New 52” line. And after reading Justice League #1, I can’t see much point to that whole idea, either.
It’s been very hard to be an old-school comic fan over the past decade. The few remaining writers that we could count on for quality stories have gone completely commercial and sold out. I suppose I can’t blame them, considering what a dying art form and hobby comic books and comic book collecting has become. But when I sit back and read fantastic tales stories in the pages of Starman or Doom Patrol or JSA or even New X-Men and see the kind of confusing, monotonous tripe that writers like James Robinson, Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns are putting out now, it saddens me.  I quit reading most Marvel Comics after the lingering “Civil War” crossover event, and stopped reading most DC books after the fiasco of “Final Crisis.”
The hobby is in a downward slide. For example, back in 1968, the first Doom Patrol series was cancelled for selling only 250,000 copies a month. The version of the series that was cancelled in 2002 was only selling around 15,000 copies. The best seller that month sold around 148,000 issues. Huge crossover events that are so convoluted you need a scorecard haven’t helped matters. Readers want solid stories of the characters they enjoy - they don’t want to buy a bunch of comics they’ve never read in order to follow the plotline of a single story. And since new comics are about as valuable as new baseball cards, there’s not even a speculator market anymore.
Let’s take a look at the first issue’s story, written by Geoff Johns and featuring art by Jim Lee, which is set five years before the current continuity. For some reason, Cyborg is set to be a major player in the Justice League this time around. I hadn’t realized that Victor Stone, who has gone through lord knows how many transformations over the years, was suddenly a major commercial star. But we’re going to be seeing his origin over the course of the next few issues. I’m betting some major accident involving some of the other soon-to-be JLA’ers. As for the “heroes” we also see in this issue, not a single one of them have any original qualities that make them endearing to me. The Batman is, well, the Batman - stuck-up and overbearing. Superman appears to be a jerk as well, and Green Lantern Hal Jordan is pretty much an idiot. Batman even pulls a stunt he did in All-Star Batman and Robin by stealing GL’s Power Ring. At least this time, Robin wasn’t around to nearly kill the “Emerald Gladiator”...
If this book is representative of the New 52 continuity reboot, I’m very scared for the future of DC Comics. It has the scent of the disastrous revamping that Marvel Comics tried in 1996, giving their flagship titles to Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld of the then-popular Image Comics to remold into something new. That was a creative fiasco, no matter how you look at it. Having Jim Lee as a player in any reimaging of any comic book is not something I’d call a move that inspires confidence in the whole. I’ve also read where they’re bringing in Liefeld, who is perhaps the single worst artist in the history of comic books, to do another of the New 52 titles (The Hawk and the Dove), so I’m having the distinctly ominous feeling that this is a venture that is doomed to failure.
There’s nothing in Justice League #1 that makes me want to pick up issue #2. Much like Marvel did, DC Comics is completely abandoning the remains of their hardcore, old-time fan base. I hope that they realize that in this economy, it’s a bad thing to lose steady readers for the sake of bringing in a few short-term sales on a bunch of #1 issues. And I also hope they realize that in this age, even those old-time fans can find plenty of other diversions to make them forget about new comics, and stick with the old ones they can rely on for solid entertainment.

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