DC Reboot: What to do with 52 new series?

Beginning in September, DC Comics will relaunch its entire universe — all fifty-two running comic book series — with new number one issues, new character designs, and in some cases, drastic shifts in character origins and line-ups.

These comics will eventually be released in trade paperback. Below is some information to help you figure out which comics to follow and which to buy when they are issued in collections.

Skeptics question just how much reintroducing characters and their origins will draw in new readers. I’d guess not very much, especially since many readers have no idea that such a reboot is in the works (i.e. a significant majority of my library patrons.) Reboots succeed in creating a few fans from folks already frequenting comics shops (and also annoy long-time fans), but I’ve rarely seen such a reintroduction pull in a reader who isn’t already interested in superhero comics. The readers who are eagerly awaiting Craig Thompson’s Habibi or who delight in the gruesome procedural Chew are not going to be won over by shiny new costumes and a bit of new back story. Still, change is good for superhero tales that have gotten mired in relying on hundreds of previous issues for fans to follow along.

This new series list is filled with big name creators: Grant Morrison! Judd Winick! Gail Simone! Geoff Johns! Not to mention the stellar art of folks like Rags Morales, J. H. Williams III, Jim Lee, and Keith Giffen. However, great creators do not a great series make (just take a look at the less than stellar All-Star Batman and Robin for an example of a train wreck.)

On top of the new lineup, familiar imprints are changing their names and shedding titles. We’ll be losing favorites like Superman/Batman (a big hit in my Teen Room to this day), but on the other hand we’re getting another of my teens’ favorites back in relaunching Blue Beetle. The new Static Shock will add another favorite from TV (not to mention a little diversity) to our teen shelves. Wildstorm, an imprint that has produced challenging series over the years including The Authority, Stormwatch, and Ex Machina, is becoming The Edge. Vertigo, the beloved mature readers imprint known from Gaiman’s Sandman, Ennis’s Preacher, and Willingham’s Fables, will be The Dark. Characters that were long considered to exist a step outside the traditional DC Universe, like John Constantine of the Hellblazer series, are being folded into the main universe.  Constantine will appear as part of a new team in the series Justice League Dark (which somehow makes me think it’s going to be coated in dark chocolate, which may or may not be a strong selling point.)

For a full rundown of the series and changes, check out the Comics Alliance’s complete list. For a less substantial, but enjoyable look at the costume revamp, check out the same site’s excellent roundtable.

With over fifty potential titles to collect, there’s just no way most libraries can pick them all up. In terms of the age ranges, the new titles are all rated either T (for teen) or T+, for older teens (definitions of age ratings here), so none of these series will be aimed at younger readers.

Reactions among the comics industry and blogosphere have been mixed about which series will be worth paying attention to during this change. Action Comics, the series that launched Superman, looks to be strong with Grant Morrison writing and Rags Morales on the art.  Batwoman, reinvigorated by the masterful work of J. H. Williams III in Batwoman: Elegy will finally get the ongoing series she richly deserves. Swamp Thing, a title long associated with Alan Moore’s legendary run in the 1980s, should regain new and intriguing life. Jeff Lemire, known for the indie comics Essex County trilogy, will tackle both Animal Man and Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. Wonder Woman, with Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, boasts another promising team taking on one of the best DC superheroines. Genres once common in comics books, westerns and war stories, are being launched as well in the series All-Star Western, Blackhawks, and Sgt. Rock.

The curiosity factor and controversy over bringing Barbara Gordon back as Batgirl makes that series worth picking up. In current continuity, Barbara Gordon has been kicking butt as the Gotham information expert (sure to warm every librarian’s heart) Oracle and has been paraplegic since Alan Moore’s 1998 Batman: The Killing Joke. Taking back her injury and subsequent disability is problematic and, unfortunately, takes away representation from people who so very rarely see themselves in the media, as blogger Andy Khouri points out. Still, fans are willing to wait and see. Simone has a long history Of writing Gordon as both Batgirl and Oracle, and she’s the one to make this work if it’s going to.

Keep a sharp eye out for reviews as these series start their comic book runs from sites like Comics Alliance and Comic Book Resources. Just how long these series will last, and how accomplished they are, will be determined early by fans and reviewers.

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