Tuesday, 4 June 2013

DC's New 52: Right Time, Wrong Company

By this point it's fairly clear that DC's rebooted universe is an idea they seem more or less set with. While the reboot certainly hasn't sat well with more than a few fans, others are warming up to the new setting when it's done right. Well, when DC manages to not do something thoroughly stupid anyway. Despite this, whether you're a fan of the new setting or not, it's hard to deny that it came at a very strange time. Almost the exact moment when it was least needed.

Having come off of Blackest Night on a high note, the follow-up event Brightest Day felt almost like a new beginning. It set up new status quos for many characters, dealt with the fallout of the last event, established the histories of the newly resurrected figures and felt almost like a fresh start. The end was both hopeful and problematic as well, with the ultimate threat having ended but also the heroes facing their own issues: The firestorm matrix counting down to detonation, Swamp Thing's renewed rampage at new targets, a resurrected Maxwell Lord. All problems which could bring up new stories and serve as new threats but didn't make he world in so bad a state it needed a reboot.

By comparison it was in fact one of the better off companies, with two other big universes in more desperate need of a restart.

The first, and most obvious, of these was DC's Wildstorm imprint. Ignoring for the moment some of the more dubious decisions by its heads and DC Comics' slow destruction of the company, a subject for another day, its main universe felt like it needed a start over. The World's End event, while giving us some initially good arcs and the sort of insane move Wildstorm was known for, ultimately fell apart by the end. There was only so much which could really be done with a post apocalyptic world and the efforts to get back to bigger, galactic stories obviously showed the writers were interested in setting their sights elsewhere.

Either a soft reboot or a full scale one were both available to them. Performing a time skip a few years into the future could have given them reason to show humanity having recovered to some degree and return to more normal stories. Either by just continual effort, use of advanced tech to start healing the ravaged areas of the world or even more magic base alternatives. Given the finality of the conclusion however, even with dangling plot threads, the universe felt like it had come to a close. As such a full blown reboot wouldn't be an entirely bad idea. One set in an alternate universe and travel down lines not explored previously or to show how early arcs of some comics could be done if handled competently.  Hey, I love the universe but you have to admit that pre Ellis StormWatch was fairly dire. It would be a chance to either re-imagine some characters in new ways or even just showing previously hinted events in a new light. Apollo and Midnighter's origins, perhaps have Majestic be more in line with Grand Morrison's idea of a space traversing mercenary; various briefly seen concepts.

The second one prime for a reboot, and the one most likely to cause the next storm of hate mail I have to filter though, would be Marvel. The Marvel universe has been the source of some of the best comics seen in the industry, but of late it's becoming less that and more a nihilistic cluster-fuck of bad ideas. From Avengers Disassembled onward everything has felt less like the authors are thinking on how to write great stories and more how to make everything as pointlessly grim as humanly possible.

Every major event we've had over the past few years has either felt boring, dark to the point of inducing apathy, or so thoroughly stupid and out of character it's not worth reading. 
The aforementioned Avengers Disassembled, which murdered and disbanded most of the Avengers more or less just because Brian Michael Bendis could do it. 
Civil War, a comic so infamously badly written it took the Iron Man film for people to start turning Tony Stark into a character you could support again. 
Secret Invasion, which began the conga line of traumatic humiliating events which almost made Wasp unusable. Not to mention served as the start of the Sentry's mass character assassination and the world forgetting Norman Osborn is a raging psychopath. 
House of M, which only furthered the use of Scarlet Witch as a raving loon and de-powered massive numbers of heroes because someone complained about it. 
Schism, Avengers vs. X-Men, One More Day, Avengers Arena; all terribly written series and tales which either forced heroes to beat the living snot out of one another, scream insults and break friendships or have them outright butcher each-other in combat. Assuming of course the writers weren't completely scapegoating them, rewriting the characters to be unlikable as humanly possible and then turning them into villains.

Many of the good or enjoyable comics have had similar problems. Nearly all the time they're being written to try and perform damage control on what followed or placate an increasingly frustrated fandom. World War Hulk had everyone rooting for the villain because so many of his targets had been written into borderline villains to make a ham fisted pot-shot at the Bush administration. Spider-Island had to perform narrative back-flips to try and correct the damage done by Joe Quesada. Siege was trying to correct the damage done from all the way back in Civil War and even its promised "things will get better" was quickly proven false in following story-lines. Often with every victory showing the heroes gaining no ground and the universe ultimately only getting worse despite any efforts on their part.

Marvel NOW! (even months later I still can't believed they called it that) similarly made promises like the Heroic Age with things improving, only for them to get worse. Cyclops is firmly a villain in all but name with Bendis apparently determined to destroy his life, the X-Men have everyone baying for their blood, many Avengers were made unlikable thanks to AvX and life just keeps getting worse for everyone. It seems like half the time these days we're expected to side with characters who have been written to be utterly unsympathetic and often are the cause of a story's problems. The authors don't seem to comprehend that drama needs to have a point. That people are sick of seeing heroes fighting one another rather than the villains. That a universe needs to be bleak and grim for the start to make tragedy and continual loss work. This isn't even getting into the state of the Ultimate universe. A line of comics which shot itself in the foot so hard in Ultimatum it's amazing to see any stories are still being written for it.

Technically a reboot has already happened anyway if you consider the film universe. Taking good ideas from recent years but skipping terrible decisions like "Tony Stark imprisons superheroes he doesn't like in hell without trial." Look at how well received that has been in comparison to certain series by Marvel.

Taking all this into account, would it really be so bad for every bad decision to be wiped away and authors be given the chance to try to do things right?

These are just personal thoughts however. Feel free to disagree or agree with them however you wish, but i'd be interested to hear what people think. Would fans of Wildstorm or Marvel be that opposed to a total restart from the beginning, or even a partial one? As a fan of DC do you think that the New 52 was something the universe needed? Feel free to give your thoughts below.

1 comment:

  1. I would welcome an overhaul of The Marvel Universe while there are a few series currently out that I read and love, (Hawkeye, Captain Marvel, Astonishing X-Men), I’d just be happy if we could get Cyclops back to being an actual hero instead of this grim 90s anti-hero that’s taken his place. I just don’t like the fact that to find out what’s happening with some of my favorite characters. I have to read something like Avenger’s Arena where it’s all but certain that X-23 murders all her friends in cold blood due to Trigger Scent.
    Other things Avengers V.S. X-Men was dreadful but it was the culmination of years of writing which painted the X-Men into a corner than there’s the straight up stupid ideas like the “Kids Club” version of the Hellfire Club runs a school and Husk joins (what!). So and so forth so yeah a complete overhaul would be appreciated.