Thursday, September 27, 2012

Nerd Rage, Tim Drake, and DC's 5 Year Plan...

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 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.... 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....


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The New 52 (One Year Later...More or Less)

August 31, 2011....that marked the day that the Old DCU came to an end with "Flashpoint" and the day the New 52 was born with Justice League #1.  So as of the day of this writing, September 3rd, it has been...

- 369 days  (not counting today)
1 year, 33 days
-  31,881,600 seconds
- 531,360 minutes
- 8856 hours
- 52 weeks (rounded down)

Since I'm spitting out facts & figures, let me run those down before I get into the nitty gritty of this piece...ya know the part where I rant about the things I loved, liked, and hated.

So we started with 52 core books, the ones indicated in that banner right up there, but it was announced in January 2011 that the following "First Wave" books would be cancelled after eight issues:

- Mister Terrific
- Static Shock
- Hawk and Dove
- Blackhawks
- Men of War

Those titles were replaced with the "Second Wave" of the New 52 made up of:

- Batman Incorporated
- Earth 2
- Worlds' Finest
- Dial H
- GI Combat
- The Ravagers

Then we had a second wave of cancellations over the course of August & September, most of these ending at a #0 issue, consisting of:

- Justice League International
- Captain Atom
- Resurrection Man
- Voodoo

And now we've got the "Third Wave" kicking off in September as well with all of the following starting their runs with #0 issues:

- Talon
- Sword of Sorcery
- The Phantom Stranger
- Team 7

So obviously DC is trying to stick with a core of 52 on-going books but there are a slew of mini's, one-shots, and now a "National Comics" anthology that aren't considered part of this number for various reasons, but the one being the ability to say "we only publish 52 books" would be the top of the list I imagine.

Now as for the most important part, for the companies at least, and the primary reason for any company to do anything of this magnitude: sales!  Here's a look at the July 2012 sales charts which are the most recent:

Retail Market Share -
DC Comics - 32.71%
Marvel - 31.96%

Unit Market Share -
DC Comics - 36.55%
Marvel Comics - 35.45%

One year earlier, prior to the start of the New 52, it was the exact opposite:

Retail market Share-
- Marvel 43.59
- DC 30.55%
Unit Market Share
- Marvel 43.59%
- DC 34.76%
So with the top ten in July 2012, DC had 6 of the top 10 spots and 11 of the top 20 compared to Marvel's 3 of the top 10 and 8 of the top 20 (all of Marvel's were tied into AVX somehow). The lone spot not belonging to Marvel or DC was the #1 and that was owned by Image's "The Walking Dead" #100.

One year earlier it was Marvel with 5 of the top 10, DC with 5, and Marvel with 12 of the top 20 while DC had 8 of that 20.

So I think it's safe to say that comparing the one year later numbers, DC did something right in generating interest in SOME of their books. There are still some books, like Grifter, Blue Beetle, & DC Universe Presents that have somehow survived the axe despite sales for their #11 issues hovering around 13,000 while books like Resurrection Man and Justice League International are getting chopped despite better numbers (14,715 & 29,802 respectively).

Personally I don't get the decision to chop the former because it's something different & unique in the DCU and with the latter it seems...based on the recent Justice League of America announcement...that the choice to kill JLI has more to do with future plans than anything the book has done wrong.
So it seems from a financial stand-point that DC made a good decision in this reboot but what about creatively? Well, now that I've got the BS out of the's time for me to address what's worked for me and what hasn't in the form of a Best & Worst List!!!
Best of the New 52
Batman (obviously)
For me, and for a whole lot of folks, this has been the standout book of the New 52. With a very strong writer in Scott Snyder and art by Greg Capullo that shocked the hell out of me in how awesome it has been, "Batman" is the best example of taking what existed prior to the reset, honoring it, but continuing on with a story that didn't require new fans to know the decades of history that existed in the Old DCU. With the Court of Owls, Snyder played within the confines of what old fans know has always existed but brought us into a darkened corner of that room, illuminating it for the very first time. The Court's existence never felt shoehorned into Bruce's, or Batman's, life...well maybe a little with the back-up that ran through Night of the Owls...and it seemed like if fit right into the seams of Gotham, as if it was indeed right in front of readers for all this time but we never noticed it...just like Bruce.
Capullo, who I knew from Spawn & X-Force but hadn't seen on a book in forever, was the main question mark I had going into this but my doubts were very, very quickly rendered inert by the amazing work he did in everything from simple faces to page layouts. He made the Court feel horrifying, a feeling often hard to generate in comics, and made Bruce seem fragile at times...another difficult feat to pull off as well. This is the book I look most forward to every month, and cannot wait
until The Joker arc kicks off in October!

 Animal Man (left) & Swamp Thing (right)
These were both books I discovered after what many declare their creative heyday (Animal Man by Grant Morrison & Alan Moore's Swamp Thing) but those arcs quickly became two of my all-time faves, which is retroactively amusing to me with Animal Man because he was also one of my favorite aspects of the "52" maxi-series which I read way before I ever touched Animal Man.

Unfortunately these were two properties essentially dead in the Old DCU, more so Buddy Baker.  Animal Man had been relegated to an afterthought post-"52", popping up randomly in JLA stories, while Swamp Thing was seemingly in the midst of a rebirth via the "Brightest Day" maxi-series & "Search For Swamp Thing" which returned Constantine to the DCU proper after having been exclusively a Vertigo character since 1993. The "Search" book sucked...

So when the announcements of the New 52 titles came around these were two books I was psyched for, Swamp Thing because of the creative team of Scott Snyder & Yannick Paquette and Animal Man because an interview I read with Jeff Lemire essentially said he was shooting for a Morrison-esque take on Buddy Baker. Sold on both titles!

And I must say that these two books are what I would think the New 52 was all about as they took two properties that were essentially obscure to the general public and made them two of the most successful books both creatively AND financially.  In the July '12 sales, Animal Man #11 ranked 60 and Swamp Thing #11 was 55.  Not bad for two books on the fringe really...and the way the two books have been interlaced with one another, and with their pre-New 52 history, almost since the beginning has been masterful. The concepts of the Red & Green are ones forged in the Old DCU, the history between Swampy & The Arcanes is old territory, but it has all been introduced as freshly as possible to the uninitiated audience.  Hell I give Swamp Thing lots of points just based on the fact that it was the first, and maybe still the only, book to acknowledge that Superman did indeed die in the New 52:

The two books have been on a collision course since jump street and have finally reached that convergence with the "Rotworld" arc that begins in September and it has been a tremendous ride so far watching Buddy and his family, experiencing Alec Holland reluctantly embrace his destiny, and that's not even mentioning the amazing artistic work by Travel Foreman on Animal Man & Paquette on Swamp Thing.  They have defined the visuals of this new world and, honestly, Animal Man doesn't seem the same without Foreman. Now that was an artistic switch I was dreading but am adjusting to now.  This pair of "Dark" books are two of my highest recommend titles in the New 52 in large part because of how it took the obscure characters and made them top tier.

"Aquaman" on the other hand is a great example of taking a mainstream character, one who is kind of derided and mocked, and turning him into an uber-badass by tackling those jibes head-on.  Right from the first issue Geoff Johns works his magic, the same way he did on Green Lantern, and begins to change all of the preconceived notions of just who Aquaman is by basically having the randoms he encounters point out all their inaccurate beliefs. Johns even has an Aquaman fan quizzing Arthur on exactly what his powers are and how he feels about being the guy that no-one takes seriously.
So what does Johns do in response? Show everyone, the fans and characters alike, just how awesomely powerful Aquaman is and with each issue continues to demonstrate why he deserves to be considered one of the Big Seven.  The issues read fast, and are an absolute beauty to look at with the Ivan Reis art.  He is without a doubt one of my absolute favorites working for DC right now, up there with Doug Manhke, JH Williams III, Capullo, and Foreman..artists whose work is just stunning to look at for a varied reasons.  This, as with Swampy and Animal Man, is a great example of just how the New 52 should work to reinvigorate/redefine a character.
Honorable Mentions:
- Batgirl
- Green Lantern
- Batwoman's 1st Arc
- Nightwing
- Wonder Woman
Worst of the New 52
This is without a doubt the biggest disappointment of the entire New 52 for me.  I have long been a fan of the idea of Hawkman dating back to my first real exposure to the character during "Zero Hour" and the subsequent series that followed.  Yet as with nearly every iteration of the character I have read, save his role in "JSA" and "Brightest Day", the idea of Hawkman was a lot more interesting than the actual execution of the character.  Johns did a decent job in his handling of Carter in the aforementioned JSA book but that didn't carry over to his solo spin-off book and I dropped that after about a year. 
So I had my hopes up for a New 52 version of the character, one with all of that utterly confusing origin wiped away.  Instead what I got was a really wtf first issue with Carter trying to burn the costume for whatever reason accompanied by some really awful art from Phillip Tan. Bad dialogue, bad art, and an opening sequence that is never addressed in the six issues I managed to tolerate this book for...massive failure.  I mean Carter Hall, the archaeologist, repeatedly states he has had the Nth Metal armor for years but apparently knows absolutely nothing about it as the villains keep having to tell him things and he just generally seems clueless as to his own abilities.  I think that works with a character who we are just witnessing come into their powers like say a Blue Beetle, but not when the lead keeps expressing that he's had his abilities for years.  I lasted six issues and from everything I saw/read, things did NOT improve when Rob Liefeld came onto the book...but that's a whole other issue for later.
Call it editorial interference or whatever...the bottom line is that this book has never been good.  I have read George Perez's statements about editorial and how he didn't know what he could do because no one knew what Grant Morrison was doing with the history-based "Action Comics", and I am sure that had a direct effect on the story Perez wanted to tell.  Does it excuse the story he ended up telling though?  I just found this book pointless and boring and it just felt old...the exact opposite of what a flagship book should feel like and that exact opposite of the feeling that Batman was, and still is, generating. 
The change in writers did nothing to improve the quality of the book either, despite it being Dan Jurgens who piloted Supes through his Death & Rebirth, as we got tie-ins to Wildstorm characters, a character whose name was originally Masochist but got changed to Anguish because the former was too controversial I guess, and then I stopped because I just didn't care anymore.  The art was fine I suppose, but this was a book that just felt...detached...that might be the best word, yeah detached from any other depiction of Superman we were seeing in the New 52. And the worst crime of was BORING, the antithesis of everything your flagship character should be and that is why it makes my Worst Of section.
The Ravagers
So initially I thought I would keep my judgement to the books that had a decent shelf life to judge but when my brain keeps coming back to one book, I had to bring it up.  "The Ravagers" is bad spin-off from a really bad "Superboy", "Teen Titans", "Legion Lost" crossover that was so bad it made me stop paying for Teen Titans, insured I would never pay for Superboy, and guaranteed I would never read a Legion issue ever.  So that sounds like the perfect recipe for a spin-off doesn't it?  This book, perhaps more than any other, just screams of 90s Marvel with its creative team and it reads like it all the bad ways.  There is little redeemable about any of these characters, I hate this usage of Beast Boy after falling in love with the character as a result of Geoff Johns' Teen Titans book, and I found this book so repulsive I lasted all of two issues.  They were two issues of just terrible dialogue and plot.  This is the only blight on the "2nd Wave" as I really like "Earth 2" and "World's Finest" (don't really consider Batman Inc. a New 52 book as I will explain shortly).  This book should just be set on fire....
Dishonorable Mentions
- Deathstroke as soon as Liefeld took over
- Superboy
- Green Arrow
- The Dark Knight (prior to #9)
Most Improved
Red Hood & The Outlaws
I can see getting flack for this one but I think this book has made a strong turn-around since its highly criticized debut...criticism that centered around the depiction of Starfire as a brain-dead sex kitten and criticism that was rightfully deserved.  Regardless of what Lobdell tried to claim a year ago, I think any growth in that character, and evolving her into the warrior princess she is know being depicted as, was a direct response to the extreme backlash he received after this issue hit stands. 
For that reason as well as the vapid depiction of Roy Harper (a character I fell in love with through Judd Winick's "Outsiders") I just about dropped the book after the third issue.  Yet something kept me going, and that something was watching the character of Jason Todd grow before my eyes.  Now JT is a character I have undying love for ever since Winick's Red Hood arc and I am always excited to see him used by a writer.  He was the draw for me to this book, and Lobdell's spin on the bastard Robin kept me coming back for more despite Arsenal having no purpose for existing and in spite of how Starfire was, at first, treated.
My patience has been rewarded I feel as I have watched Starfire grow into a more full character and I have enjoyed watching JT dance on the fringes of the Bat Universe as well and am quite excited for this book's Zero issue as well as it's involvement in the Joker story in coming months.  It has been fun to watch this motley crew grow into something resembling a family, now I only hope that Lobdell actually gives us some rationale as to why Harper is hanging around...he just doesn't seem to belong yet.
Suicide Squad, for a few months, was a contender for this one but pretty much went to pot after (maybe even during) the Harley Quinn arc and Catwoman was up there too, especially considering its similarly controversial sexy start, but it just hasn't maintained that upward momentum so I wouldn't put it in there either.

- Green Lantern Corps
- The New Guardians
- Batman: The Dark Knight (Starting with #9)
Biggest Disappointment
Teen Titans

Undoubtedly, unequivocally this has been the biggest of the New 52 for me despite having the same author as my "most improved" (but also having the same author as one of my worst).  I love Tim Drake, he is my Robin, meaning that he was Robin when I started reading comics and maintained that role for the vast majority of my time as a reader.  It's kind of like how Hal Jordan is some people's GL or maybe it's Kyle, or Wally West is your Flash (certainly mine) as opposed to Barry Allen.

Well that desire to follow the exploits of Tim Drake is what pulled me into Teen Titans and I think this is the book that I had to convince myself that I liked for the first few issues.  I mean there were some moments that I liked, the inclusion of Morrison's Danny the Street character from Doom Patrol for example, and I am a sucker for Bret Booth's art , but on the whole it was just lacking.  The story wasn't there for me, didn't give a damn about Brick or Skitter or Solstice, Superboy is an ass, and that was all before the god awful crossover with Superboy & Legion Lost.  That was the straw that broke my back because it was terrible in every sense...story, art, purpose...everything. 

Oh and Lobdell had to go and state that the Zero ish will reveal Tim Drake was never a Robin...despite stating that he was a Robin in the very first issue of this book as well as it being mentioned in a few other places like so:

Which brings me to my next topic of discussion...what's the biggest thing wrong with the New 52...

Continuity Problems
This is something I've blogged about before (here & here) and it is something that continues to plague the New 52 one year later.  How do you cram this much crap in five years time?  We've got the birth of superheroes which is essentially chronicled in Justice League, the birth of Superman which is chronicled in Action Comics and takes place one year...ish...prior to Justice League, or at least it did at first, now it seems to be running somewhat concurrent with JL - Year One.  
We had multiple Crisis events in the Old DC but those are now longer canon apparently, but the problem there arises when you look at some of the necessary details that I addressed in the previous blogs, most importantly the existence of The Anti-Monitor & Superboy Prime as their existence is absolutely crucial to Hal Jordan's story unfolding as it did from Rebirth going forward.  See Anti-Monitor & Superboy-Prime were crucial parts of the Original Crisis, Prime was an integral part of Infinite Crisis, both were necessary to the Sinestro Corps War Story which was also 1000000% necessary, especially the fate of Anti-Monitor, to the Blackest Night story which we know is still canon because the current GL story is still playing off threads that Geoff Johns initiated when GL: Rebirth first started. 
But wait...what about all that...that all requires Hal Jordan to have died, which requires Hal to have been possessed by Parallax and gone bat-shit and destroyed the Central Power Battery to free Parallax & Sinestro which requires Coast City to have been destroyed which requires the existence of Cyborg Superman & Mongul which requires Superman to have died which requires Doomsday to have existed which requires ancient Kryptonians to have created him.
Which means the DCU is the worst place you could ever possibly choose to live because all of that happened in five years time.  Imagine Batman's world.... if everything remains intact he became Batman, Dick Grayson became Robin then Nightwing, Jason Todd became Robin then died then came back and became Red Hood, Tim Drake found out the secret, became Robin, his parents were killed, later he became Red Robin, Damian Wayne was born and aged ten years then became Robin, Barbara Gordon was paralyzed, Bruce was paralyzed by Bane, Jean Paul Valley became Batman, Bruce took his mantle back, there was a plague, there was round two of the plague, an earthquake, No Man's Land, a Gang War, Hush, the entire Black Glove conspiracy, a trip through time courtesy of Darkseid's Omega Effect, Dick Grayson becoming Batman after fighting it out with Jason Todd, Bruce reclaiming his mantle and finding out his big enemy is actually his relative hundreds of years removed. 
...Five years...
Of all those events what do we know for certain happened?  Well we know via flashbacks from Guy Gardner that the Anti-Monitor existed, we know from Swamp Thing that Superman died, we know that Bane broke Batman's back, we know Dick Grayson was Batman for roughly a year for some unexplained New 52 reason. We know that Blackest Night happened in some fashion and well, that pretty much everything Geoff Johns has done in the GL-verse seems intact. 
I would go so far as to say it almost feels as if the events in Green Lantern are taking place in some other world because it feels totally removed from the rest of the DCU, and the Hal Jordan in this book bears little resemblance to the one in Justice League.  The same can pretty much be said for every character in the Justice League, save Cyborg because he is undoubtedly a token presence in the League based on how unimportant he seems to the group, and doesn't exist anywhere else outside that book.  The characterization of the other 6 in no way reads like the fashion in which they are being written in their own books, and there's something to be said for that when Johns writes JL, GL, and Aquaman.  How does he get the voices to wrong from one to the next?  It's just one of the problems I have with Justice League...another being how I am excited for what I think is coming but not excited for the actual story that I am reading month-to-month.  The story I have in my head...the one in which the JL know that something isn't right with this timeline...that is more interesting to me than anything Johns has served up so far.
Anywho, these inconsistencies have been the biggest problem with the New 52 overall as a lot of lip service was given to the idea of world building but I would be hard-pressed to think that the Wonder Woman & Green Lantern as written in their own title exist in any world shared by the Superman & Batman in their books.  Hell, it would be hard convincing met that the Supes in Action & the one in Superman reside in the same reality....
I think, to rectify so many of these problems, DC needs to establish some key things about these characters histories, in particular for the big guns who haven't been utterly rewritten.  I think it's safe to say Wonder Woman's story is a totally new one in the New 52 but it seems important to flesh out the events in the life of a Superman or Batman or Green Lantern. 
In some ways it seems as if DC would have had an easier time handling this, and probably gotten less flack from fans, if they had gone all the way with the reboot and wiped slates clean across the board, especially when you have a book like "Batman Inc." that just seems to dance with whatever continuity it feels like bringing to the dance that issue.  It seems as if the "2nd Wave" version is picking up 100% where it left off, but then we've got a character like Batwing who "died" in the original Inc run but has been running around the New 52 since the beginning and yet in the new Inc are still talking like he faked his death.  My head hurts....
A new "Who's Who" or "History of the DC Universe" might solve a lot of these problems, but DC needs to be willing to stick to whatever new history they establish, even if it means erasing certain  parts of a character's story that were beloved in the Old DCU.  In doing so though, they have to make sure they are aware of the butterfly effect of how do we get to Blackest Night if Superman never died & the Original Crisis didn't happen? Or how did Dick Grayson become Batman if Bruce Wayne was never sent into history by Darkseid to essentially create himself?  It can be a sticky situation when you follow the individual story threads back to their origin points...
So to wrap up this diatribe, let me say that I am year later...mixed on the New 52.  Obviously it has been successful from a financial standpoint, and creatively it has seen some boons as well, but those story achievements are all ones that could have been done within the confines of the Old DCU.  There is nothing about Swamp Thing or Animal Man that couldn't have been done prior to Flashpoint, the Court of Owls idea certainly existed prior to the reboot, and Aquaman could have gotten the "rebirth" treatment at anytime. 
Sure DC might have had some problems melding the Wildstorm world into the DCU in the Old World, but seriously, has ANYTHING ported over from Wildstorm been good?  Stormwatch started with some promise but that floundered...Grifter nope...Voodoo cancelled...I guess we will see what happens with Team 7. 
And as far as that continuity stuff goes, let's see if the Zero issues starting this week answer any questions for us.  I am not holding my breath for that...just hoping for a few good yarns is all.  It will be interesting to see where we are with the New 25 in another year with the Trinity War on the horizon as well as the spawning of the Justice League of America title, and this underlying thread that all is not right with the Justice League and the future will go tragically because Supes & WW kissed (which btw, I thought was devoid of feeling).
Just like one year ago, I am excited and apprehensive but I think it is the second one winning out...