Many fans were hesitant, to say the least, when the New 52 reboot was announced (including us: listen to our podcast about it). Six months and six issues later, how is the DC Universe doing?

Here are the top five things the New 52 does right:

Welcome, Poweteers, to a brand new original column where we explore the top (and bottom) 5 items we think are relevant to any of a variety of topics that span the imagination. Sit back, read, and respond!

5) Action Comics Brings Superman Back to His Roots

The New 52 Superman of Action Comics #1 is quite literally the most he has been like his original incarnation for most of the last century. Ma and Pa Kent have both passed on, being older when they found little Clark in the crash-landed spaceship. Most Superman fans are familiar with Jonathan biting the dust before his red-and-blue career begins — either through the Richard Donner films or the more recent Smallville series, but since 1986 Clark has been able to have a relationship with both his parents into adulthood — both in comics and series like Lois & Clark. No more! Clark leaves the farm and Smallville to make his mark on the world and fight for the downtrodden in society as an investigative reporter. As Superman, he fights crime more directly; it seems the ’80s-inspired Intergang is back, and it’s up to Supes to clean up Metropolis once again.

Except he now has fewer tools at his disposal. He’s younger and less experienced. Instead of sporting the familiar blue tights (armor?) in the new ongoing Superman title, he’s wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and the indestructible cape he was bundled in when he came to Earth. He packs less of a punch, and he makes more mistakes. It’s an extremely refreshing take on the character’s origins that pays homage to that origin’s many incarnations while still being something unique.

For instance: Jimmy Olsen, far from being the doting cub reporter, is actually Clark’s college-aged friend and peer. It’s a very different relationship, but unfortunately so far he has only appeared in one issue, so we don’t know where this potential can go. But it’s an interesting seed of an idea that I hope to see grow.

On the other hand…

This “Golden Age” Superman completely disappears by issue #5, “replaced” (temporarily) by the modern-day incarnation who has traveled into his own past to prevent some other time-traveling villains from expanding out of a tessaract inside his own brain, killing him with kryptonite stolen from the drive core of the ship that bore him to Earth. Seriously.

And it was too bad, because things had JUST gotten interesting; we find that Lex Luthor is working closely with the government to detain and experiment on Superman to find out just what he is and what he can withstand. We discover that John Henry Irons does indeed exist in this version of the DCU, similarly to his original incarnation as a weapons researcher. In specific, he invents an armor to fight super-beings like this strange visitor from another world — armor that is soon donned by John Corben. Savvy Superman fans will know this to be the original human name of the super-villain Metallo. Unfortunately, it looks like Brainiac (or some equivalent) has awoken to threaten the Earth, and infects John Corben’s suit — destroying his heart. (Hmm.) John Henry has to don a prototype suit to beat down this nascent Metallo as “Steel”.

And that’s it. It completely drops off when “future Superman” shows up. Bummer.

Given my age, I don’t have any nostalgia for the Superboy days of the Silver Age, nor the Legion of Superheroes being a part of young Clark’s life. That was something that was excised (sloppily) from the mythos when John Byrne last rebooted the character Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1986.

I also unfortunately also don’t find the Superman title that compelling. The first issue opens with the first apartment building Clark Kent ever lived in being torn down. (We saw him move into that apartment in Action #1, so it was a nice bit of symmetry, but something you’d completely miss if you didn’t read DC’s blog.) But since the first issue it’s been one monster of the week after another, with nothing truly inspiring happening. Come to think of it, read Byrne’s initial run on his rebooted Superman to get an idea of what I’m talking about.

Here’s hoping that issue #7, and a new creative team, can keep this fresh direction going.

4) Batman and Robin as a Father and Son Book

One of DC’s strengths before the New 52 was that the DCU was a generational place. Sidekicks grew up to be heroes in their own right, heroes had families, tried to settle down, and life went on. Well, the New 52 changed that in ways that haven’t been fully explored. Roy Harper is chumming it up with Jason Todd and Star Sapphire over in Red Hood and the Outlaws, but Wally West so far is nowhere to be seen. Oliver Queen’s Green Arrow looks like he’s in his 20s, so it’s likely that Connor Hawke no longer exists. The only father/son combo that’s left is Bruce and Damian Wayne, and that has been a relatively new development to DC. Volume 1 of Batman and Robin was barely two years old when the reboot occurred.

Being a fan of Dick Grayson in the role as Batman, I wasn’t sure I’d like Bruce Wayne coming back to this book. Not only would it change the dynamic of the title (duo and otherwise), but the idea that Bruce couldn’t effectively train Damian was already tackled upon his “return” when he left: it ain’t gonna happen, and Dick Grayson would be a better mentor.

Bruce has apparently changed his mind, and it’s probably for the best — at least from the character’s perspective. As interesting as I was finding the Batman, Inc. storyline, it presented a Bruce Wayne who was almost entirely absent from his son’s life. I probably wasn’t the only fan who found that wouldn’t ring true of a man who had lost his parents right around the age Damian is now.

On the other hand…

I’m still not sure I like it. Grayson has been relegated back to the role of Nightwing where he admittedly thrived for a decade, but now it just feels stagnant; changing his primary color from blue to red won’t change that! I’m sort of tired of Bruce Wayne as Batman, and was ready for the DCU to fulfill the promise that its generational aspect held.

However, despite that the tone of the book has changed, it still has quite a bit to do directly with the relationship. This first story arc has been an interesting window into Bruce Wayne’s now-revised past. Damian could have easily been cast aside in favor of the return of Tim Drake or some other Robin, but he continues to exist more or less as he was before the reboot. A negative aspect to this is that, as a continuation of the first volume rather than a reboot proper, Damian’s origin (which stretches back nearly 25 years) isn’t at all explained.

But it’s still a fun book, and they still have time to address those questions.

3) Teen Titans Brings Tim Drake Back to Prominence

After a generation of comics and over 100 issues of his own book, Tim Drake stopped being Robin to make way for Bruce Wayne’s biological test tube son, Damian. Since that point, no one was really sure what to do with Tim Drake. Taking on a new costume, slightly new name, new book (Red Robin), and suddenly seeming a few years older, Tim tried striking out on his own. But I can’t say I enjoyed this book very much, and it was mercifully ended with the New 52.

(Read more about these Robins, and others: Powet Alphabet: R is for Robin, the Boy/Girl Wonder.)

Fortunately, it seems that the reboot so far leaves the legacy of Batman’s sidekicks entirely intact. Tim is still the third Robin to have trained under Batman (Kid Flash even takes his familiar red and black costume out of storage). He has still taken on the identity of Red Robin, but now his costume is WAY better, rather than the Kingdom Come-inspired tights that looked better on a 40 year old Dick Grayson. He’s also a prominent blogger, which is a nice way to update the “reporter-as-superhero” schtick for the 21st century. He’s rounding up a new group of Teen Titans, mostly made of new faces, but including a young Bart Allen as Kid Flash.

On the other hand…

In some ways, this raises more questions than it answers. Part of the point of the New 52 is that all the principal heroes are quite a bit younger. If Bruce lost about ten years, then just when in his life were Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake running around as his sidekicks? Or, heck, forget the succession of Robins, what about Kid Flashes? The original Bart Allen was the grandson of Barry Allen, born in the 30th century after he went to “retire” there, but traveled back in time to be the sweet super-hero “Impulse”. It wasn’t until many years later he became Kid Flash (but then became Flash, but then died, but then wasn’t dead any more… long story). Is he the first? If he is, what happened to Wally West? The much younger Barry of the New 52 hasn’t run off to have a normal life in the 30th century that we know of, so where does Bart Allen come from?

These are actually minor quibbles, and more just questions than anything. I’ve found little to fault in the book either by writing, art, or portrayals of characters I love so well but know have changed.

I’m also finding this team-building story far more compelling than the first six issues of Justice League, which so far reads like every other Justice-League-meets-Darkseid story I’ve ever seen. Teen Titans, though? That I’ll keep picking up for sure… even if they’re taking their sweet time recruiting Superboy.

2) On Earth 2, the Future Past of DC Can Live On

The new wave of the New 52 hasn’t come out yet, but many of the announced titles hold promise. Two in particular stand out, as they are inextricably linked: Earth 2 and World’s Finest.

World’s Finest will follow Huntress and Power Girl as they figure out how to get home to Earth 2 (more on that in a bit, clearly). Seeing Power Girl again is going to be a welcome relief, because her origin very well could have put her on the chopping block in any reboot. That’s because (after most of a generation), it was finally figured out that she was the orphan of a universe destroyed in Crisis on Infinite Earths: the original Earth 2 where the Golden Age heroes lived on into the present day. Karen Starr got her own book, which was unfortunately canceled when the reboot occurred. But we’ve been seeing her in the pages of Mr. Terrific (sans costume, and pretty much most other clothing), so we’ve known since this thing started that she still existed. And now we know where she came from.

Now that we know a version of Earth 2 exists, we also know that Huntress is from there. Post-Crisis, she was Helena Bertinelli, daughter of a wealthy crime family turned school teacher turned constantly-spurned crimefighter. It seems that in the New 52 retores her identity as the daughter of Earth 2’s Batman.

But which Batman is it? DC has teased that there’s “a Wayne” under the mask, but stopped short of saying it was Bruce. In the teaser image DC released, he’s also holding one of the fighting sticks that are indicative more of Dick Grayson’s style than Bruce Wayne. So what gives?

Maybe this is a chance for the Golden Age to live on, but the original Earth 2 was created when it was displaced by the Silver Age. Could the new NEW Earth 2 be a place for the “Modern Age” of comics to continue to exist in some form? We never did see Linda Danvers again after she left the role of Supergirl, and Power Girl’s Earth 2 Supergirl costume sure seems to have a lot more in common with that than anything else.

On the other hand…

It’s probably wishful thinking. Huntress being the daughter of Batman is enough of a generational aspect to go on, but maybe her father isn’t Bruce, but some other Wayne. Damian? And adopted Dick Grayson? This seems to hint that this is the world of the Golden Age taken forward 80-ish years.

Some fans are also complaining about Power Girl’s costume. Now, I’m not one to defend the “boob window”, but that doesn’t mean the alternative we’ve been shown is the only one that could exist. The previous update featuring the universal “power” symbol and sweet blue highlights was a welcome departure from earlier incarnations. As for this new costume, many people have had a hard time seeing that her new logo is a stylized “P” to mirror the “S” she used to wear as (presumably) Earth 2’s Supergirl. Besides, who knows what’s behind that symbol, right?

Either way, it’s super-exciting to see this concept continue to live on, and have an important place in the DCU. After Infinite Crisis and the creation of the new multiverse, the pre-New 52 Power Girl found out that Earth 2 existed again, only to discover it wasn’t her pre-Crisis Earth 2 no matter how much she wanted it to be. This Power Girl is no longer the sole orphan of a dead universe, and is able to see and laugh and live again with her dear friend Helena Wayne. Even if this isn’t the Power Girl who had that wish, it’s still nice to see that somewhere, somewhen, it got to be fulfilled.


1) DC is building on its strengths, while finally changing the things that haven’t been working for them for years

It probably has a lot to do with not upsetting their poster-children Grant Morrison and Goeff Johns, but I’d also like to think it has something to do with not upsetting their fans or the applecart of their best-selling books.

The steady arc that began with Green Lantern: Rebirth and culminated in the DC-wide Blackest Night remains largely unmolested. It seems as though Hal Jordan’s personal past has undergone some (so far unexplained) tweaks, but events on the galactic scale have been the same: the Lanterns created the Manhunters as their first intergalactic peacekeeping force who went crazy and destroyed an entire space sector, giving rise to the Green Lantern Corps. The Emotional Spectrum still exists, which means that the other lanterns corps do as well. (In fact, the Red Lanterns now have their own book, and it’s fantastic.) John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and Kyle Rayner have all been Green Lanterns from Earth; the former two headline the Green Lantern Corps, while Kyle and a few prominent characters from the other Corps in Blackest night are featured in New Guardians.

As mentioned above, the Batman family hasn’t changed very much, although Barbara Gordon has become the un-disabled Batgirl again, and it turns out Huntress may have more in common with Bruce Wayne than he ever thought! The Batman, Inc. book is even making a comeback as part of the new wave.

But books that needed retooling, regenerated concepts, or a fresh approach have also gotten them where needed, and to varying degrees. Despite as interesting as Superman has been, he is nothing like the incarnation from the Modern era. (Does that mean we get to see him return in a reality-spanning crossover 20 years from now, and die killing a younger version of himself from another universe? Spoilers…) Younger characters like Supergirl, Superboy, and Wonder Girl have been rebooted entirely — their whole histories up to this point completely erased — Supergirl in particular, even though her origin isn’t that much different than her recent re-introduction only six years ago.

On the other hand…

Not all of those changes are good ones, and even the things that didn’t change. And just because they’ve chucked out history doesn’t mean they’ve avoided making the same story and editorial missteps going forward.

The problem, and it has been said many times by many people, was that DC really needed to throw out everything instead of picking and choosing the bits they liked. These stories already face similar issues presented by the Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot of 1986. Which stories still happened? If they still happened, were they somewhat modified? If they were modified, how does it affect other characters who were there?

One of the biggest problems the Post-Crisis world presented was the continued existence of the Legion of Superheroes and their adventures with Superboy, even though no Superboy existed in Clark Kent’s past. The solution? A “Pocket Universe” created by the Time Trapper — who, in at least one story, turned out to be the future version of a member of the Legion, and from whence the “Matrix” Supergirl originated before their version of General Zod killed all life on Earth.

So it seems that Bane still broke Batman’s back, but did Jean-Paul Valley still take over the role for a time? Since Steel and Superboy have different origins, does that mean Doomsday never killed Superman? Since the Justice League International got a complete reboot, does that also mean they didn’t get the snot beat out of them on a Doomsday rampage — if he even existed? Did Hal Jordan ever die and become the Spectre? Barbara Gordon apparently still played her role as Oracle and head of the Birds of Prey, but now that she’s become Batgirl, did she take the role back from Stephanie Brown, or does she no longer exist either?

As conflicting solutions to these questions come up, the same kinds of problems that plagued the Crisis will come to bear bitter fruit for the New 52. These problems were so numerous in 1986 and beyond that the DCU experienced another reality-shattering event only seven years later in 1994 with “Zero Hour”. (Which also probably “un-happened”.) It looks like DC is planning for that event ahead of time; the reality-bending Flashpoint which resulted in the New 52 hinted at a new villain in its final pages.

If it’s the anti-Monitor AGAIN, I think I might be sick.

Regardless of what you think of the New 52, it’s here to stay. If nothing else, DC is vindicated by the consumer in that they finally got to the top of the comics world (over Marvel) for the first time in recent or long-term memory. Their ability to stay there depends on how they handle these problems going forward, and I’m not talking about whether or not Superman wears red underwear.