Since I’ve been reading comics I’ve always leaned toward Marvel’s more grounded real world approach to storytelling. That doesn’t take anything from DC’s more sci-fi approach; Marvel’s books were just my preference. Marvel’s characters seem of the era in which they are written and they live in real cities and deal with real issues, whereas DC’s characters live in fictional cities and even though they go through real drama, it always felt like it happened through a generally less gritty existence. Hardcore DC fans may disagree with me and that’s fine. After all, this discussion is from a Marvel fan’s perspective and as a Marvel fan this has always been my perception of DC books. I have read some DC. I’ve always been a fan of Green Lantern, Action Comics, the Justice League and the grittiest book in DC’s line up Batman.
I was one of the few people excited about DC’s New 52 because I felt this would be my opportunity to jump back into the DCU. I’ve tried off and on in the last few years, but DC’s books aren’t really that inviting to the “jump in”, even at the beginnings of story arcs. I know many readers are opposed to Marvel’s use of recap pages, but those would be really helpful for readers hoping to jump into a DC series. At any rate, these so called “soft reboots” seemed like the place to jump in. I read my favorites from my youth: Justice League, Action Comics, and Green Lantern. I also checked out Legion LOST.
Justice League #1
This was not really a Justice League book. It’s the beginning of the Justice League though. The focus here is on the first meeting of Batman and Green Lantern. In this new world heroes aren’t acknowledged as such. They are costumed freaks that need to be arrested. They also seem to think that about each other for the most part. The actual story in this book is sort of weak sauce. Batman’s investigation is built on knowledge he shouldn’t have and coincidence. The story here is really just a tool for these two heroes to meet. The star of the book is in their interaction. Batman is a badass and that’s so well represented here that any shortcomings of the story didn’t matter to me. Also the world was fairly well defined and honestly a bit too familiar. More on that later though.
Action Comics #1
This Superman is young and inexperienced. He tries to help and usually does, but he almost does it in a Hancock way causing as much damage as help. His alter ego still writes for a newspaper but now he lives in squalor and has nothing but bad luck. He can’t get his bills paid because he’s too busy saving the day. Does this sound familiar? Again, more on that later. This doesn’t seem like a Superman story for better or for worse.
Green Lantern #1
This story doesn’t feel as much like a reboot as the others. Green Lantern has had his ring taken from him and Sinestro has had a ring forced on him. The writing here is great because it didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the previous Green lantern stories. Even if you’re so unfamiliar with Green Lantern that you don’t know who Sinestro is, the story gives up enough character development to catch you up. This book is a set up for Green Lantern’s story and it’s fascinating enough to get me back for future installments. Like Clark Kent, the Lantern’s alter ego can’t seem to exist successfully in his sort of secret identity. The difference here is that he can’t be a hero either. He’s a failed hero desperate for another chance.
Legion Lost #1
This book felt the most like classic DC storytelling and not coincidentally it’s the toughest to get into for a non DC reader. The Legion is back in the past to stop a villain from destroying humanity. The setup is easy to jump into but there’s no character development in the book. The issue relies too much on prior knowledge of the series to truly understand what’s happening and who these people are. They slide in and out of hero names and real names way too often making it a little tougher for a Legion noob to learn who is who. The story is somewhat interesting though and hopefully there’ll be better character development as the issues come out. At least at this point you can jump into the story.
Overall, for the Marvel fan these books are a good way to bring some DC books into the old hold box. The biggest problem though is that it feels like the powers that be at DC have decided that it’s a good idea to immolate some elements of the Marvel U to tell these new stories. Action Comics feels way too much like Amazing Spider-Man. This isn’t at all who Clark Kent is. The setup in Justice League also feels like Marvel U.
As much as I appreciated being able to add some DC books to my hold list, I’d still like to see DC tell stories their way rather than following a Marvel formula. All they really needed to do was make their books more accessible. They did just that but they also redesigned their entire universe and reformatted their style of storytelling. It all seems like a pretty extreme change. It may have been wiser to does this in an alternate universe ummm similar to Marvel’s Ultimate Comics line. There’s no denying the gamble is paying off for DC in the short term based on the sales of the number 1’s. The question is will all of these people that are dipping their toe in stay around for the long haul.
On a side note, I actually read these books digitally on the iPad. The convenience factor of being able to get these books day and date without filling up my hold box at the comics shop or causing me to make extra trips to the shop definitely was a major factor in deciding to check these books out.