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!



  1. Hey Collin, Jamison again.

    Great response. I wanted to start mine by professing my love for Grant Morrison's writing. He is one of my favorites. I especially loved the polarizing Final Crisis story. I thought it was a wonderful and fitting send off as the last super event of the post crisis DCU (aside from Blackest Night, which I thought was meh). I can't really think of a story of his I don't like. I even enjoy his take on the Doom Patrol. He brings a level of creepiness and atmosphere that no other writer can match. I can forgive his bone-headedness. His continuity errors aren't that terrible. Not nearly as bad a Jeph Loeb anyway. I would almost rather count Dark Victory as non-canon rather than the Vows story from the batman annual. But back to the new 52

    I hope Damian will be explained as much as you do. A satisfying explanation would likely be enough to get me on board. Also I want to clarify my Darkseid statement. No, he is not ruined, but the Justice League arc will forever be a horrible spot on his record. He didn't have any characterization whatsoever. Did he even have any dialogue? Darkseid works best when brought about very slowly (See post crisis DCU). He was hinted at and pulled strings behind the scenes from Legends in the late 80s which culminated into his invasion in 2009. More than 20 years of subtle teasing. The pay-off was huge in my opinion.

    Now everyone on earth knows Darkseid in the new 52. He showed up as an excuse for the poorly characterized justice league to decide to be a team. Batman was portrayed terribly. Wonder Woman was basically just Thor as far as personality goes, and I don't know what Superman was. I don't know what new readers must think of Jack Kirby's 4th world. If that was my first impression, I wouldn't have the time of day for it.

    We already agree on most of this anyway, but I still have other problems with the new 52.

    I don't think the main Batman title is bad, in fact it's good. I just don't think it's amazing. I think, however, that Batman's characterization isn't quite right. I will explain: In order for Batman to be likable, in my opinion, we need to see his rarely observed sentimental side in order to sympathize with him and balance the fact that he is basically a total dick. Remember in GK #42 when Alfred was sick with the clench? We saw the pain Bruce felt at the thought of losing his life-long friend and surrogate father. They had a moment that show-cased Bruce's human side. These make it possible to forgive Bruce, or even sympathize with him when he's being his usual distant, and often dickish self.
    But in Snyder's Batman, I haven't really seen that, and his dickish side is a bit over the top. Instead of telling Dick Grayson he has a tracking device in a fake tooth in his head, he just slaps the shit out of him with no prior explanation... It's a bit much. It's also a bit too early in Batman's career for him to be so jaded. When he appears to treat his adopted family like shit, it's supposed to be with purpose. The whole bat-family dynamic is one of the most compelling aspects of the mythos. Tony Daniel is a much bigger offender, where in detective #1 Batman has the nerve to look Jim Gordon in the eye and tell him "this is my city!" Fuck you, Batman. I guess the whole equal partnership between Bats and Gordon aspect of year one is also not canon. I am really looking forward to Layman's detective. The first issue was pretty good.

    1. Continued from above:

      I agree with your assessment on the respective qualities of the various Bat-books, although I enjoyed the first Catwoman arc, and am a fan of Judd Winick for the most part (under the hood was amazing). I would probably rate Batgirl as terrible, just because of Simone's explanation for Babs' recovery: "She got better." Fuck you, Simone. Why couldn't her Batsuit have neuron-gadgetry in it to make her feel her legs again? Or maybe surgery and physical therapy? Or maybe the wound wasn't as bad as they thought. What's the point of the Killing Joke even being canon anymore?

      Babs was one of the best, and now its going to take a lot to bring her back to the amazing character she once was. This basically expresses my feelings about the new 52 bat family. It's going to take a lot to bring it back to the quality it once had.
      It's not impossible, but it's frustrating knowing that it will likely be a while before things start getting awesome again.

      I know 1987 wasn't a perfect year in comics. Yes, Detective was bad then too. I just think Batman was better then than now, and with the hind-sight DC has now, it seems pretty disappointing that this relaunch isn't quite as impressive as the last. Maybe they will have another LotDK style series soon that's better handled. That would be amazing, and probably make me appreciate more of whats going on in Batman and Detective.

      I will still stand on the sidelines for now just casually and skeptically reading until something gets me really excited. For now the DCnU is on probation as far as I am concerned. There have been bright spots elsewhere in the new 52, such as Aquaman and Wonder Woman. I know it's not all bad.

      On a final note, I really miss the old Teen Titans (1980-2011).

  2. Thought this might be relevant: Grant Morrison was grilled by someone in the audience at a Q&A at MorrisonCon 2012 who asked him point blank about Damian’s age controversy. According to longtime Comicosity contributor/writer Matthew Santori-Griffith, Morrison said he will “never tell the story of how Damien aged so fast.” Very annoying. Is this playfulness, avoidance, or the only real straight-from-the-source reference to the fact that Damian definitely “aged so fast”?