Ramblings: The New 52 Bat-Verse

Reader Jamison asked me a great series of questions recently on the website, so I thought I would respond via a post.  Here is is question in full:

I wanted to get your thoughts on the new 52 so far. I want to like it, but I’m sort of appalled that they squandered the opportunity to have a sensible continuity. There’s two things that bother me about this relaunch. Damian’s age and James Gordon Junior’s age. You already know these problems. Batman vol. 2 Annual 1 suggests Bruce has returned from his training 6 years before the present, and the issue loosely crosses over with "Night of the Owls," so we know it’s present day. Damien can’t be 10 years old. Also if Year One is canon, then James Gordon Junior goes from infant to 11 year old in 4 years (as seen in Batgirl 0). Even if you or I can somehow rationalize these glaring errors, it’s still unacceptable. It’s one thing for Jeph Loeb or Grant Morison to create continuity errors with material that’s 10 or 20 years old, but these new stories are all less than a year old. Does DC think we are idiots? Once again, I’m insulted.
Even if I can ignore all the continuity errors, the stories themselves aren’t really that good. I think Scott Snyder’s stories are a bit overrated and ape [sic] Grant Morrison a bit too much. So far I don’t find anything unique to the New 52 all that appealing. Within a year or two of the post-crisis relaunch we got the Dark Knight Returns, Year One, and the Killing joke. These new stories, especially Tony Daniel’s work, don’t even come close. We need at least one great story and at least an explanation of Damian (opportunity squandered in Batman and Robin #0) before I will consider forgiving them for raping Darkseid’s character to death before my eyes.

I've got plenty of thoughts, Jamison, and here they are!  The continuity in the New 52 does seem to have some glaring holes that lack sense.  Obviously, I've been harping about Damian's age for months now.  And I'm still crossing my fingers that DC is simply waiting to unveil the big reveal that explains it all.  There have been subtle hints that an explanation is going to be given, including the bizarre "I'm going to be growing soon" comment in Batman & Robin #13.  We also kinda sorta know that there exists another cloned Damian (probably in the form of the adult Heretic aka Fatherless).  So, maybe Damian's age conundrum is linked to that.  But in any case—definitely a cluster fuck.  

                                                                           comes before THIS.
So, how old is Damian again?

James Gordon Junior isn't really a problem for me, but only because I've fully accepted that Miller's "Year One" has been significantly altered.  Sure parts of it are still canon, but in the New 52, plain and simple, JG Junior was already a bit older (around ten or eleven-years-old) when Year One occurs.  Likewise, I think it isn't an unsafe bet to assume that Sarah Essen never existed either—although it is a possibility.
                                   Imagine Bruce catching THIS KID falling off a bridge instead of a baby.

As far as appeal goes:  I like some books in the Bat-verse and I hate some others.  I can't say whether or not Snyder is overrated (although he does get a huge heap of praise time and time again), but I have been intrigued with his arc thus far and it does feel like something fresh and new, which is what the New 52 is supposed to invoke.  Also, Greg Capullo's art has been divine, so I definitely can't complain about that.  And anyone who knows me knows that, in spite of a lot of controversial and frankly bone-headed commentary that has been spewed out of Morrison's mouth in the past year or two, he remains as one of my favorite comic book authors.  I've said it before and I fully understand, Morrison isn't everyone's cup o' tea.  But he's my favorite cup of tea, so I can definitely get on board the love fest for Batman, Inc.  That being said, it is a little annoying that Morrison's portion of the Bat-verse, which is arguably the most important, lives on the fringe and at times lives on its own, ostensibly—if only for mere moments—outside of the rest of the Bat-verse.  Now I'm not saying that Morrsion's stuff ignores canon; I'm simply saying that sometimes Morrison bends canon to the breaking point, which can be dangerous when there are so many other canon Bat books running simultaneously.  I wish ALL the creators would respect each other a bit more.  But maybe having ten, eleven, twelve, a hundred, whatever the number is Bat books come out each month is too much for Mike Martz or whoever else bears the burden of making sure everything jives.

In response to the comparison between the last mega reboot versus the current one—the post Crisis on Infinite Earths transition into the Modern Age versus the post Flashpoint transition into the New 52 aka New Age—I think that is often compared incorrectly.  And in Jamison's case, I'm not sure I agree entirely.  See http://famousfanboy.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-new-52-continuity-it-aint-so-bad.html for a great write-up that compares the New 52 to the post-original Crisis, and you'll see that things are just the same as they've always been.  But let's focus on the Bat-verse.

I agree Daniel's run was very, very bad.  But thankfully, he's off and the first issue of 'tec without him was quite strong (and had better art).  But let's compare 'tec in the first year following Flashpoint to 'tec in the first year following Crisis.  The silly, goofy Mike W. Barr run that ushered in 'tec for the Modern Age was just as bad, if not worse, than Daniels' stuff.  Meanwhile, in 1986-1987 Starlin and Aparo, in Batman, were beginning the long road leading to A Death in the Family, which to this day is one my favorite arcs.  I think the gritty dark stuff going on in that book is tantamount to the gritty dark stuff both Snyder and Tomasi are writing now.  Let's also not forget that Legends of the Dark Knight didn't begin until 1989, a series which filled in a lot of gaps.  But at the same time, let's not forget how terrible an idea it was to have a quasi-canonical, some-of-the-stories-are-canon-and-some-aren't-but-we-will-never-tell-you series in the first place!  At least in the New 52 we know what's canon and what's not when it's given to us.
                                 TONY S. DANIEL (2011-2012)            =           MIKE W. BARR (1986-1987)

                                   SCOTT SNYDER (2011-2013)         =            JIM STARLIN (1986-1988)

Maybe we haven't had a Year One, Dark Knight Returns, Killing Joke, Legends, Millennium, Cosmic Odyssey, and Batman: The Cult come out yet since the New 52 reboot, but don't forget that Crisis wrapped in 1986.  Besides Legends and Year One, all of these other great arcs took place in 1988, two years after the reboot.  So with that in mind, we are about to enter the second year following the 2011 reboot, so maybe there are some great stories about to explode onto the scene.  

In regard to Justice League Vol. 2:  It is unforgivably bad.  Some of the worst issues of the year.  Now, I don't agree that Darkseid's character has been ruined—that statement is a bit too hyperbolic for my taste, plus we'll see him again and it can only get better—but I do understand and feel your pain.  However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.  The second year looks to be much stronger, with the interesting JLA lineup, Booster Gold interaction, and various other plot lines hinted at thus far.  

The main problem with the New 52 Bat-verse, of course, is that there are simply too many books.  When there are too many books, it waters down continuity and it waters down quality.  Here's my take:  Batman Inc = excellent.  Batman = very good.  Batman & Robin = very good.  Justice League = bordering on very bad and terrible.  Detective Comics = terrible.  Batwing = bad.  Catwoman = very bad.  Nightwing = ok to good.  Batman: The Dark Knight = terrible/very bad.  Batwoman = great on art, but meh on story—glad it has become its own entity separate from the main Bat Family, though.  Batgirl = not very good.

All of these titles, I feel, have limitless potential to either stay great or get better (besides Batwing, which unfortunately is a lost cause—why can't a Black Bat character work?  I'm reminded of the waste of Onyx and Orpheus, both of which could have been really successful if handled properly).  Catwoman, unless revamped and revamped right quick, is becoming a lost cause too, unfortunately.

But I digress.  Bit of a ramble there towards the finish.  I'm sure there's more to say, but I'll save it for next time!