DC You expectations and recommendations

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Posted June 1, 2015 by Josh McCullough in Comic Books

With the end of Convergence this past week, DC are set to leave the New 52 branding behind it and usher in a new era known as DC You. Twenty four new books are set to launch alongside twenty five of their current bestsellers which boast radical status quo shifts and a new focus on character rather than continuity. There’s a lot of potential for the new line-up, and with previews of almost all the books released and Convergence wrapped up, I decided to take a look at all the previews released so far examine some key elements of the new landscape of the DCU and give my opinions the potential it has. I will also give out some personal recommendations based on what I’ve read, so any new fans looking for where to jump in need look no further. So without further ado, let’s look what what makes up DC You.

Less focus on continuity

*warning, this section will contain spoilers for Convergence #8*

One of the major complaints fans had with the New 52 was of course the removal of a lot of the characters and stories they’d read over the years. It was a tough pill to swallow for some, the problem was only accentuated when DC attempted to backpedal on some changes to keep fans happy. It lead to quite a confusing time for readers as what was “in continuity” and what wasn’t was very much up in the air and often changed from writer to writer. With the ending of Convergence essentially undoing the many reboots over the years and relegating each continuity branch into a different section of the multiverse, it seems that DC has finally managed to strike a balance between keeping the continuity fans love, while not being chained by it and keeping things fresh and accessible for new readers. The multiverse will allow writers the privilege of not have to worry about where in continuity their story takes place or how it fits into the current goings on in some of the bigger books. I’m personally a huge fan of this, while I do admit I love the histories and worlds contained in the DCU, trying to chart the decades of stories was one of the reasons I fell in love with the line after all, I also get annoyed by the unwillingness of some fans to embrace new ideas or interpretations of characters for fear of it “not fitting with continuity.”

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Hitch’s JLA could offer great continuity free adventures for old and new fans alike.

So far, it seems writers have already been taking advantage of this, Bryan Hitch’s much anticipated JLA for one. There has been much question about where the book takes place in continuity given that it features the seven characters from Johns’ League, but without any of the new changes, it’s very much a “classic” take on these characters. Given what we now know, it seems this book takes place in another corner of the multiverse, giving Hitch free reign to tell great stories with iconic characters. This not only works for him but for the fans too, imagine yourself as a new comic fan looking to get into DC, seeing a book with the iconic heroes you’ve seen in other mediums and being able to read that without having to worry about continuity. Similarly, die-hard fans who get frustrated with the need for accessibility can simply choose to ignore Hitch’s book and continue reading the current exploits of “their” Justice League in the main book. If new fans get hooked on the more accessible book, they might even switch over to the main book and start getting further invested in the character’s histories. It’s a great way to offer choice to the fans based on how deep they want to get into the world and sidesteps many of the problems the new 52 had satisfying both old and new fans. To take it even further, it’s possible now for DC to tell stories set in the classic continuity many fans grew up with, so everyone can be happy and choose what they want to read about.

Furthermore, I know in the past my favourite books in the new 52 have been the likes of Dial H and Demon Knights, books that may have ties here and there to the larger DCU, but mostly stand on their own. Due to the new multiverse, these stories can now have even greater autonomy from the events of the bigger series, taking place wherever or whenever they want. Out of all the previews, the one that seemed to embrace this most was Prez, by Mark Russell and Ben Caldwell. It’s set in a future, tech controlled world which stars the newly twitter elected 19 year old female president. The social satire isn’t at all subtle, but I admit I do have a soft spot for stories like this, and Prez seems like great fun. Like the examples listed, it has a great sense of standing on its own to tell a strong story and looks to be a very interesting series going forward. I’d highly recommend it and hope for books like this to be given a better chance in the new line-up.

Major status quo shake ups

The new relaxed approach to continuity doesn’t mean an end the overarching stories and changes to major characters fans have come to expect, many of the books I read seemed to feature a great feeling of interconnectivity as well as major changes to some of their iconic characters.

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The new Cyborg series has potential to flesh out the character and his role in the DCU.

A few of the main league members are getting their own books for the first time since the new 52 began. Cyborg from David F. Walker in particular has been a long time coming, with the art of Ivan Reis fitting very much in line with the look established in Justice League. The book looks like it could do a very good job of fleshing out Cyborg who’s mostly played a supporting role since joining the big leagues, and feels like natural extension of that line. I’m also highly excited for Robbie William’s Martian Manhunter, it seems many writers have struggled to find a place for him in the current books, with most of the ambition to create a new, more untrustworthy Manhunter having been replaced with the more traditional role for the character. I’m very excited by William’s new take though which portrays the character in a much more distant and ambiguous light. It’s a take that I didn’t know I wanted to see for the character, and like Cyborg continues to flesh out the new takes on classic characters and keeps the evolution of the world interesting.

Outside of these new books, DC are set to change some of the status quos of their biggest characters in major ways, such as a new armoured Batman and a renegade Hal Jordan. Unlike the continuity free direction in many of the other books, these changes have spun organically out of the previous New 52 continuity and for long-time fans will be the books to follow. While many fans can be cynical about these changes and claim them as gimmicks, I’m personally very excited by the changes so far. What seems most prevalent is how naturally these have spun out of the writer’s prior stories, it definitely feels like a natural place to take the character’s by writers who love them, particularly in places Snyder’s Batman, which in my opinion hasn’t had a single misstep so far in all its sweeping changes.

My most anticipated change however comes in the depowered Superman in the Truth storyline taking place in his books. I’m particularly excited by Greg Pak’s contribution in both Action Comics and Batman/Superman; Pak has been one of the only writers I think has truly got Superman in recent years, his portrayal of a hopeful yet naïve young Superman is the perfect position to place the character in and is, in my opinion, the best characterisation of Superman since All-Star. While I’d usually roll my eyes at the idea of a depowered, angsty Superman with a shaven head and a motorcycle, Pak’s grasp on the character so far gives me all the confidence I need for the upcoming changes. Given how optimistic and true to form his Superman has been, I can see him using these changes in order to fully explore what makes Superman Superman and showing why being a blue boy scout isn’t such a bad thing.

New flavours for books

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Books like We Are Robin are attempting to diversify some of the lines which have arguably grown stagnant

Another thing I’m hoping to come from this relaunch is a more diverse range of voices amongst the families of titles. One of the reasons I moved away from DC’s book was an overabundance of dark, edgy books, in particular a large amount of Bat-titles seemed to clog the shelves. While there’s still a lot more titles from particular families than I’d have like, they are streamlining a lot of them. The Green Lantern franchise for example has been reduced to two core books, the main series Green Lantern and a new series The Lost Army (essentially acting as a replacement for Green Lantern Corps). Sinestro is also sticking around, but seems to be more autonomous from these two books. Given how complicated the Green Lantern franchise got, I think trimming the fat was a good move and has made me want to read those series again. Even in cases like the Bat-family, which still has what I would argue an overly large amount of books, I at least appreciate the efforts DC have gone to in order to grant each book purpose and give them distinct voices and personalities.

I’ve talked in the past about my fondness for series such as Gotham Accademy and Gotham by Midnight, and from the look of the previews these books look set to be just as creatively interesting and fresh as they have been previously. On top of these, spinning out of the equally awesome Batgirl, is Black Canary. The book carries on the character’s adventures after her appearance in the aforementioned Batgirl however is entirely new-reader friendly. It has the same sort of punk rock tone similar to Marvel’s Spider-Gwen and is a very stylish new take on the character. The look and feel of Black Canary is definitely something I want to see more of from DC and gets a recommendation based on style alone, and thankfully it’s not the only book to be breaking from the traditional mould of DC’s house style.

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Black Canary is one of the books breaking the mould of DC’s house style.

Many of the books I read feel very different from DC’s current offerings mostly due to the art. This has already been happening within the past few month with a gradual loosening of the strict house style, but the chains seems completely gone with this new relaunch. I was surprised for example to see the art of Riley Rossmo grace the pages of Constantine: The Hellblazer, which leant that book a great deal more strength than the previous run. The art grants the book a more indie feeling style which is a huge plus for me, as it makes it feel like more than just a standard DC book. Even books like Doctor Fate feel like they’re branching out into different styles, as there’s a very Ms. Marvel vibe to that book. While this may concern some fans that DC are trying to be more like Marvel or other publishers, let me lay these concerns to rest. I am simply using these examples as they are the closest thing I can describe the new looks to, in the past I’ve praised books for taking on a more “indie” feel and that’s definitely the vibe I get from a lot of these new DC books. At the heart of it though, these books still feel distinctly like DC, not as if they’re trying to be something they’re not. It’s more about opening up the DC universe to as many people as possible and showing that they can cater to all sorts of tastes. The balancing act between offering the fans what they want while trying to grow their audience is struck well and both will hopefully get a fair shake going forward.

Unexpected hits

Above all, my biggest takeaway from this experience has been how many times I’ve been pleasantly surprised by books I’ve tried, without ever thinking I would’ve liked them. For example, I’ve never usually been a fan of wacky comedy books like Deadpool, and given that we know have three or four of those at DC I was really groaning. When I read Bizarro however I had to admit I really enjoyed it, having laughed the whole way through and would even recommend it.

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Doomed was a pleasant surprise amidst the previews.

Furthermore, on the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve not been too fond of Scot Lobdell’s contributions so far as I don’t find his grittier writing style to be for me, but I was actually heavily interested by his new series Doomed. The series features a teenager who is able to turn into the monster Doomsday, which on paper sounded terrible to me, but when I tried it I actually found it to be a refreshing new take on the teenage superhero genre. The book almost felt like a twisted version of Spider-Man, even down to the supporting characters of a girlfriend and aunt, but the idea of him being a legitimate villain rather than a misunderstood hero is a fascinating concept to me and has a lot of potential to make Doomsday an actual interesting character rather than the rather boring 90s style villain he currently is.

What I’m incredibly excited about is the fact DC are giving niche characters their own shots at books, something I praise and wish they’d do more of. Midnighter for example has a very fresh feeling to it, with a very hard to place personality that I just really seemed to like. It’s hard to describe, but it’s almost a self-aware grit that seems likes it’s aware of books that try to be overly edgy so just has a lot of fun with its own concept. It’s the same vibe I got from reading Garth Ennis’ Section Eight, a very mean spirited and cynical book that had me anxiously laughing. As a big fan of black humour, I absolutely loved what I read and was a refreshing breath of fresh air since much of the current DC humour offerings seem to be about being “lol so random” (still loved Bizarro though, being a hypocrite is my superpower).

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I don’t know much about Midnighter, other than the fact I need it right now.

What would be my biggest recommendation then would just be to try whatever you can from this relaunch, even if you think you may not like it. With the free previews currently out you’ve got nothing to lose (unless you read them all at once like me…) and, like me, you may discover things you might not even realise is for you. While I’ve offered up the titles I’d personally recommend and will be buying in the coming month, I can’t cover everything and it really is a matter of personal taste. There’s plenty of variety on offer in this relaunch for people to discover new books they may never have thought to try.

If you do try some new books in this relaunch, whether based on any of the recommendations here or just because it looks cool, let us know! You can tell us either in the comments below or on our Facebook page. Either way, I hope you find something to enjoy and hope these recommendations can be of some help. Now I’m off to sit down and breathe after reading so many previews.

 


About the Author

Josh McCullough

A writer at WTN Josh is a huge comic fan whose tastes edge towards the strange and surreal. If there's one thing he loves more than comics then it's Doctor who. Never try and argue with him that there's a better doctor than Sylvester McCoy. Any fedoras that would make good press hats should be sent to his PO Box.