For those of you not familiar with the crazy world of comics continuity, one of the industry's problems is that people love the iconic versions of the characters so there's a drive to keep them young and healthy enough to fight crime instead of the grey-haired cripples they'd probably be by now. That's why Batman/Bruce Wayne still looks like a thirty-to-fortysomething despite the fact that he's technically been fighting crime for several decades.
This gets compounded by the fact that the creative teams working on a comic book typically only work on a title for a few issues before they shift over to work on another book. I suppose it helps keep things fresh and it gives the creative people variety. The side effect of this, though, is that the plotlines get so twisted into spaghetti-like knots that it makes the outline for a soap opera look linear.
When you combine these two factors you get one great, big mess. DC Comics has traditionally solved this problem every few years by hitting the reset button: some universal crisis causes a reality wave to sweep across space and time that magically unties the spaghetti. All the heroes' and villains' lives get all the wrinkles flattened out on some great cosmic ironing board. The writers get to start over again, ignoring lots of the crazy old continuity problems and telling new, complicated stories. And thus the great cycle repeats again and again: every decade of so when the continuity gets too complex for anyone to handle the slate gets wiped clean again.
DC's latest reboot is caled "The New 52" because the company is taking 52 of their published books and starting them all over again with issue #1. So in one month we've got 52 new comics supposedly affected by the latest reality wave, and everything's supposed to be simpler. At San Diego Comic-Con, the DC execs billed this as a younger, simpler version of the DC Universe (aka the DCU) which would keep in the important beats from the characters' pasts (like Batman getting his back broken by Bane or Superman's "death") but would put a modern spin on these events. Also, the public emergence of superpowered beings only happened a few years prior to this reboot, so superheroes and supervillains in the public eye would be a recent phenomenon post-reboot.
Things got off to a great start in Justice League #1, a special story line which takes place approximately 5 years before the "current date" in the reboot, which told the story of Batman and Green Lantern meeting for the first time. Green Lantern exclaimed "Batman? You're real?!?" It felt fresh and young. Things were looking good!
The problem, for me, has been that the reboot is getting applied unevenly. It's like the writers aren't consulting with each other, and the editors aren't making much effort to ensure the rules of this reboot are applied to all the titles. I'm super-confused in this brave new super-world and I want DC's editors to draw me a map. In short, some stuff is clearly 100% rebooted, and in other stuff nothing has changed, and these two states don't work well together. For example:
- The Batman titles: It doesn't look like anything has changed. There are still 4 Robins (3 of whom have moved on, 1 currently wearing the red tights), Batman still recently "died" and then came back to form Batman Inc. Clearly this Batman has been on the job for years and years if he's gone through 4 Robins.
- Supergirl: Obviously a reboot. It's a fresh retelling of Supergirl's arrival on Earth and completely changes a lot of the origin story.
- Green Lantern: Absolutely zero change from the previous continuity. Hal Jordan still just got kicked out of the Corp. Sinestro clearly just got a ring and is the Green Lantern for Earth's sector and he doesn't want it, he wants to go back to being a villain. It's so in-line with the previous continuity that I don't know why they even bothered renumbering this one. Worse, there's practically no way that this jives with the Batman/Green Lantern meeting in Justice League #1 I described above.
- Superman: Clearly a reboot. He's younger, less experienced, and less powerful. His marriage to Lois Lane has been undone. He's only been a hero for a few years.
- Static Shock: He's a college intern now so apparently his life is moving along. Not obviously a reboot, merely fast forwarding his life a bit.
- Blue Beetle: A reboot because he gets his powers in the first issue, so they've got to be resetting this character.
The summaries I'm reading of the issues I haven't picked up seem to have this same problem. So which is it DC? Are you rebooting or not? At Comic-Con you promised us you were all in, but it feels like you're only halfway there. Go big or go home. Please.