I have written about this before, I have discussed it with friends and with various people online, some share my annoyance and anger, some just think I should let it all go...but unfortunately, with all of the time and energy I have invested over the years in following my favorite characters and their stories....I just cannot seem to do that.
What am I referring to? What has me feeling all sorts of nerd-rage?
That pesky beast known as continuity, both internally and externally. Whether it be part of the story, or something as simple as the numbers on the cover of the book, I am someone who firmly believes that continuity is important. No this is not some backlash against the New 52 for, theoretically, tossing it all out of the window.
The truth of the matter is that DC did NOT toss it all out the window, that's pretty damn obvious from reading comics like any of the Green Lantern or Bat-Family of books. Also pretty clear from the reading the likes of Animal Man or Swamp Thing that their pre-New 52 continuity, or at least the parts penned by Grant Morrison & Alan Moore, are still pretty much alive and well.
This is more of an outrage at the lack of continuity in many aspects of the New 52, so lacking that it is positively screaming off the page, and also making it plainly obvious to all that any sort of "New 52 Bible" is a complete myth. There is no sourcebook, there is no greater tapestry that anyone is following, and it is becoming increasingly clear as a result of this Zero Month.
I have read about some inconsistencies between the Zero issues and what was previously established in earlier issues of the New 52 books, but honestly I don't really care about anything outside of the Bat-Books and GL-Books. I do read some of them, some of them I actually pay for, but I don't have decades of emotional investment in any of those. I definitely would not be buying Action Comics if not for Grant Morrison, nor would I give Aquaman a shot if it wasn't for the team on that book.
The only thing that has truly mattered to me in DC has been Batman and Green Lantern...the former since the day Bruce Wayne had his back broken and the latter since the day I was given GL: Rebirth as a gift about six years ago. So I am going to jump straight to what has, no doubt, been the biggest point of contention for me with any of this and it's a problem of DC's own making, one the fans questioned as soon it was announced, the 5 Year Plan.
The 5 Year Plan is totally a logical one for DC to enter the New 52 with IF you're doing a clean reboot. It gives writers plenty of room to create back stories for these new takes on classic characters, to tease at the hidden years and unveil the mysteries over time, and either continue the history as it was or tweak some (or all) aspects of these origins. Unfortunately for DC they did not do a clean reboot for the worlds of Green Lantern and Batman, in fact those worlds have largely remained intact, and as a result there is a...well to put it bluntly...a SHITLOAD of history that would happen in only five years!
Let's delve into the world of Batman...
At first it seemed that DC had Batman existing behind the scenes prior to that "Five Years Earlier" mark in which Justice League took place, and even longer than the "Six Years Earlier" mark in which Action Comics seemed to be set initially.
Well the story of Bruce in the New 52 chronologically begins with The Dark Knight #0 which traces us through the days immediately following Thomas & Martha Wayne's murder up until Bruce's 18th birthday where he confronts Joe Chill and heads off to Tibet on the last page. Detective Comics #0 which is marked as "Ten Years Ago" at the beginning of the lead story is also set in Tibet, then it jumps to "Seven Years Ago" in the back-up where Bruce returns to Gotham.
Batman #0 is then earmarked at "Six Years Earlier" and Bruce Wayne is still just Bruce Wayne, no Batman in sight, thus shooting the whole idea that he was in the shadows all to hell. The back-up here, marked at "Five Years Ago", shows us the birth of the Bat-Signal but also shows us Barbara Gordon, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake as they all see it for the first time. We know his back was broken at some point and that he had an extended absence in which Dick Grayson took over as Batman for a year. There has been a lot that has gone on in Bruce's life in just five years based on the events of the New 52 and as a result we now have some problems that, to me, just further show there is no real plan to the New 52....
Let's start with Dick Grayson. Putting aside that visually, Dick seems to age a decade in just a few months, and the fact that Nightwing #0 takes an easy way out by just setting the story "A Few Years Ago...", I still find this timeline to be very, almost impossibly, short. Too short for Dick's tenure as Robin to have been anything more than an eyeblink. From his parents death in NW #0 until his debut as Robin it is listed as "Months later...", and based on the panels in Bats #0, it is safe to say Bruce has been active for an extended period of time by this point. A year? Two? Who knows exactly, but it seems, based on Batgirl #0, that Dick was at least Robin until the "Three Years Ago" frame. So then when does he become Nightwing? In the Old DCU, his transformation into Nightwing came along with his Titans membership, but based on these two images (from Bleeding Cool), it seems DC couldn't decide if the Titans ever existed prior to Red Robin:
They actually removed panels between the release of the original issue on the left and the trade on the right! I guess they couldn't decide whether or not there were ever other Titans teams prior to this going to print in September 2011. Then some time in the ensuing year DC decided there weren't any other incarnations of the Titans so they just big brothered it out of history in the trade and hoped no one would notice. As you'll see in the Tim Drake blurb below those panels weren't the only thing they did this to in the Teen Titans book. But speaking of Titans, and Nightwing, check out this panel from Red Hood #1:
For those in the dark, all of those names were members of the Titans in the Old DCU, so it is quite obvious this dialogue is intended to evoke the idea that these characters were still connected in the New 52. It is possible that this dialogue between Starfire (Dick Grayson's Ex-Wife in the Old DCU) & Arsenal has nothing to do with any form of the Titans, but it would just seem an odd thing to bring up if DC had intended there to never be another Titans team (obviously they didn't think about it hence the edit in the Teen Titans collection). The other thing about those names, at least two of those characters have been introduced in the New 52 already, Vic = Cyborg who has been in the Justice League since his New 52 debut and Gar = Garfield/Beast Boy who popped up in Teen Titans/Ravagers but seems to have no connection to these guys. A slight aside from the Bat-verse there but it does touch on how it ties into the larger DCU....
Back to Nightwing, it has also been established that he did indeed serve as Batman for one year during Bruce's...absence, and Damian was his Robin. So if Dick stopped serving as Robin in the "Three Years Ago" range, Jason Todd served & died in the "Two Years Ago" range, Tim Drake was around in roughly the "Two - One & 1/2 Years Ago Range", and Damian has been Robin since roughly the "One Year Ago" range, how long could Dick have possibly served as Nightwing? Maybe two years tops?
Skip to Red Hood #0 and the intro of Jason Todd to the Robin guise. This book is completely devoid of any "X Years Ago" markers to put it in context but Jason does remark, after being taken in as Bruce's ward and having been told the secret, that he put in "six months of intensive training hell..." before becoming Robin. So going on the idea that Dick stopped being Robin in the "Three Years Ago Range", that would mean Jason was Robin during the "Three - Two Years Ago" range and is obviously Robin for some duration before Joker kills him (we also get a confirmation in this story that Joker was still Red Hood at some point), Red Hood #2 shows us a scene taking place "A Year and a half ago" with post-resurrection JT but pre-Red Hood, meaning this is taking place in roughly the same time frame as the introduction of Damian to Bruce and that JT was not dead very long before being resurrected by Talia Al Ghul nor has he been running around with the red bucket on his head for very long either.
As far Tim Drake, well he has been the star of Teen Titans since the dawn of the New 52 sooooo....
Like Red Hood, Teen Titans #0 does not have an "X Years Ago" timeframe stamped on it either but, based on the events within all taking place after Jason Todd's death, it is safe to say Tim's intro to the Bat-world goes down in a very narrow window in the "Two - 1 1/2Years Ago" range. Any earlier and it risks bumping into JT and any later and it overlaps with Damian's introduction & Dick's one year spent as Batman. Oh yes, and there is that whole pesky problem of whether or not Tim Drake was Robin in the New 52....let's look at DC's glaring inconsistencies around Tim's tenure as Robin. For that, I need some visual aid:
See both of those images, the one on the left from Teen Titans #1 & the right from Batman #1, see how both of them refer to Tim Drake as a former Robin? Those actually exist right? I am not seeing things right? Then explain this image I also got from Bleeding Cool which is pulled from the Teen Titans collection:
So wait...now Tim is only Red Robin? He was never Robin? But what about those mentions in TWO DIFFERENT COMICS that he was a former Robin and is now Red Robin? Well DC must have felt no one would notice them changing it for the trade. I mean since the company line about Tim Drake apparently changed sometime between September 2011 when issue #1 was released and September 2012 when the trade was released, they had to cover their tracks. The funny thing is, that image from Batman #1 I pulled, that is NOT from the actual issue.
Nope, that's from the "Court of Owls" Hardcover collection that was released in May 2012...which means they changed their minds about Tim as Robin between May when "Batman: Court of Owls" was released and September when "Teen Titans: It's Our Right to Fight" was released.
Now what about Barbara Gordon and her role as Batgirl in the New 52. We have been told previously that, come Batgirl #1, it had been four years since Babs was shot by the Joker (meaning The Killing Joke is still canon). Now jump ahead a year to the release of Batgirl #0, and jump back four years in history for the start of this story.
Now if this is "Four Years Ago" it also means it is around "One Year Later" from the Bat-signal story. Babs dons the mock Bat-costume for the first time and encounters Batman for the first time as well, and he is flying solo. That doesn't necessarily mean Dick Grayson isn't Robin yet though. We also get a couple "One Year Later" pages in which Barb quits being Batgirl and gets shot by Joker....
...so that puts this time frame at roughly "Three Years Ago" relative to present day and the Robin in question still has to be Grayson due to the relationship history between him and Barbara that has been established as still existing in the New 52. So that means it was less than "Three Years Ago" since he quit being Robin and Jason Todd took over.
Now, as I mentioned earlier, JT stated he trained for six months before taking on the Robin mantle which means, even if Bruce took him on as soon as Dick quit, it would still put JT in the role of Robin starting at the "Two & 1/2 Years Ago" mark. One would have to assume that he was Robin for at least a few months and that there was some gap between JT & Tim Drake but still, this is all starting to run a little tight and we haven't even touched on Damian yet.
Now as for Damian, we kick it over to Batman & Robin #0 for his origin. First I feel it is very important to point out that Damian has been firmly established as being 10 years old when he made his debut in "Batman & Son" and that he subsequently spent a year as the Robin to Dick Grayson's Batman.
As for the book itself, it starts at "A Year & 1/2 Ago" (meaning Damian is roughly nine years old) before it jumps to the generic "Before" label where we see Damian complete a nine-month cycle in an incubator. So based on the idea that he was ten years old in his debut, this would be roughly "Ten Years Ago"...
Jump ahead again to an unmarked time, but a time when Damian is obviously a few years older...four possibly, and he finds a cape & cowl in Talia's room. So if Damian was born "Ten Years Ago", and is at best four or five years old in this scene, it puts it at "Six Years Ago" or "Five Years Ago". I think it's pretty safe to say that there was no Batman in existence for Talia to have one of his cape & cowl sets, or if there was, it would be a character in his infancy, and obviously Talia's interaction with him came waaaaay before Batman was even an idea in Bruce's mind.
Back to the story, we then learn that Talia is withholding the name of Damian's father from him until the day comes when he bests her in combat on his birthday. So we then experience four more failed birthday fights over a series of panels, and they run back into the "A Year & 1/2 Ago" scene from the opening page. Which means we likely saw his 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th birthday over the course of these fights with Talia, all leading to his 10th birthday where he defeated Talia, learned about his father's identity, and culminating in a panel copy of his debut in "Batman & Son".
So regardless of if he is a product of actual sex between Talia & Bruce or if he is a scientifically engineered test tube baby as his "Who's Who" bio suggests, Damian's timeline does NOT fit into any of what has been established in Batman's New 52. If he is a sex-baby, Damian would have to have been produced almost immediately after the story in Detective #0 set "Ten Years Ago".
Now what about the cast swirling around Batman but with a little more distance? People like Batwoman, Catwoman, Batwing, and the Birds of Prey?
Well as for Batwoman #0, you get a definite timeline of the distance between her first interaction with Batman and Kate Kane's debut as Batwoman.
Batman saves her at an unspecified time, but we are told that after that rescue, Kate operates for a few months as a vigilante around Gotham. We then are told she is put into training by her father, away from Gotham, for at least three years. Meaning, if Batman saved Kate in his first few months in the gear, it would put the completion of her training in the "Two Years Ago" range of the New 52 at the absolute earliest. There's no real time references beyond that but we do know that the story of Kate's sister as told in the Old DCU is still considered canon so I would imagine that her presence in Gotham as Batwoman probably began somewhere in the "One Year Ago" range.
As for the Birds of Prey #0 issue, that book is set "One Year Ago"...umm...that makes no sense because this is treated as the first meeting between Canary & Batgirl but previous New 52 BoP issues had established that the girls had known each other for years. PLUS, this "One Year Ago" would also be before Babs stepped back into the Batgirl costume..hell she would still be in the wheelchair I believe. Big error there...
And I can't even figure out how to wrap my head around Catwoman #0 because it just bounces around time randomly with a couple "A few years ago" and "One Year Ago" blurbs, even a "Long Ago" one too! Unfortunately none of it makes sense, it actually uses a part of the stupid Batman Returns Catwoman origin that I have hated basically as soon as I started reading comics and learned about the Year One origin. That Frank Miller hooker origin is, once again, written out and none of these seems to have the least bit of meaning. If I had to hazard a guess, the bulk of Catwoman's story takes place about "Four Years Ago" in the New 52 but that is purely a guess. Oh, and I also appreciate the "Who's Who" blurb talking about her joining the Justice League which hasn't even happened yet.
As for Batwing, the bulk of the story , the part that ties it into Batman that takes place in the "One Year Ago" time frame. This presents a problem because...well...if Dick Grayson was Batman for a year, then when did that happen? It seems as if his stint only recently came to an end when the New 52 started so it would seem that he was actually in the Batman role "One Year Ago" not Bruce Wayne. Bruce was...absent...whatever the hell that means, DC hasn't really defined if he was dead or not only going so far as to saying the crisis events didn't happen in the New 52.
They have stated that Bane broke Bruce's back so maybe that was when Dick filled in? Still Bruce not dying and being sent through time by Darkseid presents a whole mess of problems of its own as it is basically the foundation of Morrison's multi-year epic. That time travel experience essentially had Bruce laying the foundations for his own creation, it created Dr. Hurt, spawned Batman Inc, so on and so forth.
And speaking of Batman Inc, and Batwing, in another bit of continuity WTF, I am at a loss to understand how Batwing is running around all willy nilly considering he appeared to die in the last Inc issues of the Old DCU AND THEY ACKNOWLEDGE IT IN THE NEW 52 ISSUES WHEN THEY TALK ABOUT ALL OF INC FAKING IT!!!! Not to mention the inclusion of The Outsiders and talk of how ELEMENT MAN WAS IN THE JUSTICE LEAGUE!!! Essentially Morrison was given carte blanche to cart over every aspect of Batman Inc from the Old DCU into the New 52 regardless of how it jives with the rest of the New 52! I love Morrison as any readers of this blog well know but this just makes everything all the more confusing, and I have to wonder if that "Metamorpho in the Justice League" comment will be edited out of the collection next year. As for the formation of Inc, that whole story in #0, while unmarked in timeframe, would also have to take place in that same "One Year Ago" frame as Batwing #0 since that story is part of the recruitment drive as well. At least Inc #0 acknowledges that the events of Morrison's Old DCU run are still part of this story as we get a few pages from "The Black Glove/Club of Heroes" arc, a take on the time travel, and a reminder that Bruce witnessed the future.
So if we start with Batman #1 as "Year Zero" than the roughest timeline for this world I can concoct looks like this I suppose:
11 Years Ago - Damian Wayne is born
10 Years Ago - Bruce enters Tibet
7 Years Ago - Bruce Returns to Gotham
6 Years Ago - Bruce is formulating Batman
5 Years Ago - Batman in action
4 Years Ago - Dick becomes Robin, Barbara becomes Batgirl; Catwoman debuts
3 Years Ago - Dick quits as Robin, Barbara quits as Batgirl, Jason Todd becomes Robin
2 Years Ago - Jason Todd dies; Tim Drake becomes Red Robin; Batwoman debuts
1 1/2 Years Ago - Damian Wayne becomes Robin; Dick becomes Batman; Jason Todd returns to life
1 Year Ago - Batman Inc is formed; Birds of Prey forms
Now - Barbara becomes Batgirl again; Joker cuts his own face off; Court of Owls; all the current story arcs
Wow...all that and I haven't even touched on the world of Green Lantern yet and I certainly don't want to run on any longer here in this one either. I will have to save my look into the GL-Verse for another blog, but suffice to say that I think, in its own way, the world of Hal Jordan is just as convoluted in the New 52. That is a direct result of DC's insistence that everything GL still seems canon, or perhaps it's their willingness to let Geoff Johns have the same carte blanche as Morrison, maybe from Column A & Column B. Only DC knows....