Saturday, August 3, 2013
DC Comics: The New 52 at Two
It's been just over two years since DC Comics rebooted their fictional universe with all-new number one issues into what they named "The New 52." Looking at the Top 300 Comics sales list for July 2013, it's interesting to see how well the DC Universe relaunch is performing in the long term.
To no real surprise, the big winner of the New 52 relaunch is Batman. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have been hitting it out of the park every month, with some truly epic Batman tales like "Night of the Owls," "Death of the Family" and the current "Zero Year." With issue #21 charting at #3 in the Top 300 two years, it's safe to say this is DC's biggest New 52 hit. Other Batman titles are still doing well, with Detective Comics, Batman and Robin and Batman: The Dark Knight still charting around the Top 20 and Top 30. Nightwing and Batgirl have drifted down to around the Top 50 mark, while Batwoman and Catwoman chart around the Top 80s and could use a significant creative boost.
After Batman, Justice League seems to be the New 52's biggest success. The main title Justice League was #6 for July 2013, the first part of the six-issue "Trinity War" storyline weaving through Justice League of America and Justice League Dark as well. Justice League of America is currently at the #20 position, but Justice League Dark only came in at #92 despite being part of "Trinity War." The recent move to boost the price to $3.99 while keeping the page count the same is probably keeping readers away, and certainly contributed to my decision to drop the title after "Trinity War."
The next successful line is probably Green Lantern. Issue #21, the first without writer Geoff Johns and artist Doug Mahnke, comes in at #18 but there's no telling yet if this will remain the norm. Related titles Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians and Red Lanterns are currently placing roughly between the Top 40 and Top 60 range, justifying their continued existence but not doing much else. New title Larfleeze debuted at #59, so it's doubtful this will help add more enthusiasm.
Meanwhile, the Superman titles keep floundering, both creatively and saleswise. During Superman's 75th anniversary with the major box office hit movie Man of Steel, when everyone's attention is the character, the Superman books should be doing much better than they are. Action Comics post-Grant Morrison comes in at #37, with Superman close behind at #40. Supergirl is much farther down at #84, while Superboy's current placing at #106 seems destined for cancellation in the near future. Now, there is a possible bright spot here, with Scott Snyder and Jim Lee's Superman Unchained debuting at #1 and Greg Pak and Jae Lee's Batman/Superman right behind at #2. So obviously, there's still demand for the Superman titles, as long as top creators are there making enough of an effort to justify the high $3.99 cover price.
As for the rest, there are only a few standouts of note. Thanks to Geoff Johns' decision to remain with the title, Aquaman continues to perform well at #35 and is still managing to do better than books like Wolverine, Captain America, Iron Man and yes, Superman. Earth 2 was a welcome addition to the New 52 that comes in at #44, but its future is now in doubt after writer James Robinson announced he's leaving the series with #16. The Flash hung in for a while but has recently drifted down to #55, which seems like the time to make some sort of creative change. That's no guarantee of success however, with Green Arrow turning things around significantly with Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino but only coming in at #79 after five issues into their run.
Here are the New 52 titles I started off with two years ago, with titles that have since been cancelled in bold:
Action Comics Green Lantern
Animal Man Justice League
Aquaman Justice League Dark
Batgirl Justice League International
Batman Legion Lost
Batman and Robin Legion of Super-Heroes
Birds of Prey Stormwatch
Detective Comics Superboy
The Flash Superman
The Fury of Firestorm Teen Titans
Green Arrow Wonder Woman
And now, here are the New 52 titles I'm currently getting, with new additions in bold:
Action Comics The Flash
Animal Man Green Arrow
Aquaman Green Lantern
Batgirl Justice League
Batman and Robin Superboy
Birds of Prey Teen Titans
Constantine Wonder Woman
Earth 2 Worlds' Finest
An overall net loss of four books, but mostly consistent. The most noticeable losses here are the Legion books, which disappointed from the start and seem primed for yet another creative reboot at some point down the road. Meanwhile, Dan Jurgens salvaged Fury of Firestorm after a horrible New 52 relaunch that ignored everything fans were promised after Brightest Day. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done and Jurgens isn't enough of a sales draw these days to bring readers back to a doomed title, so that was that.
DC seems determined to make the line work though, with new books like Superman/Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn arriving soon. But with Marvel breathing new life into many of their books with "Marvel NOW" and Image capturing more readers with The Walking Dead, Lazarus, The Manhattan Projects, East of West and others, DC needs to put '90s creators and attitudes behind them and step up its game even more. Let's see how the next two years of New 52 turn out...