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The Best & Worst of DC Comics’ New 52, One Year Later

DC Comics New 52

With much contribution from TurboBison

With the release of the last few #12’s last week, it’s officially been a year since DC Comics rolled out the New 52 reboot of its entire universe. Hate it or love it, the initiative has given comics fans plenty to talk about.

We’re big fans of the funny books over here at Front Towards Gamer, so we feel more than comfortable throwing our two cents in. The New 52 has had plenty of highs and lows, and we’re going to cover as much of it as we can.

Grab a drink, get comfortable, and read on!

Excellent Series That Could Have Tanked: Batgirl

Gail Simone’s writing is beyond fantastic. If you’ve read her runs on Secret Six, Wonder Woman, or Birds of Prey, you know she can tell great stories, especially featuring strong women (though she isn’t pigeonholed to that demographic). However, trying to bring appeal to Batgirl, especially in a DC-wide reboot, was an uphill battle. It’s a good thing Simone thrives under pressure.

Batgirl has been fantastic from the very start. Barbara has had to struggle with the trauma from being shot by The Joker in The Killing Joke, all while getting back into her groove as Batgirl. It’s such a fresh take on the character, and it works.

Gail Simone, you are one of the best.

Craziest New Origin: Mr. Freeze

While there have been small tweaks to the origins of many characters in the New 52, none changed who a character fundamentally is quite like Scott Snyder’s take on Mr. Freeze in Batman Annual #1.

Before, Freeze was a sympathetic figure who just wanted to save his cryogenically preserved wife Nora. Nora is still a presence in the DCnU, but she’s not Freeze’s wife. Instead, she’s a woman who’s been frozen since the 1960s that he began research on while working for Bruce Wayne, slowly becoming obsessed with a woman old enough to be his grandmother and that he’d never actually met.

Combined with the reveal that he’d pushed his mother into a frozen lake as a child, and suddenly he’s one of the creepiest characters in the New 52. Many don’t like the changes, but they raise fascinating possibilities nonetheless.

Worst Publicity: The Treatment of Catwoman and Starfire

Boobs. Get it? Wait, that’s not right. Tits! Get it!?

Look, there is a way to be sexy and provocative without making characters slutty. What happened to Catwoman and Starfire, however, just made them to be some of the biggest hussies in the DCnU. Say what you want about Selina Kyle, but she wasn’t the person who has sex with Batman just for the sake of doing so, let alone with their suits on. It literally makes no sense for her – or anyone! – to do that. Click here to look at the full-page, fanfic-level erotica, if you must. (NSFW, obviously)

As for Starfire, she is made to be an emotionless succubus who goes around having meaningless sex, instead of George Perez’s model of her as a creature who uses her sexuality to gain insight. She once learned English by making out with Robin; it was practically her way to communicate.

Seriously, though — Ass.

Surprising Badass: Aquaman

Aquaman was a dorky character before the New 52, and everyone at DC knew it. There were plenty of half-assed attempts to make him more interesting by giving him bad hair and creepy beards, but nothing they tried ever stuck. That is, until the company-wide reboot.

This time around, Aquaman is a no-nonsense badass proving his worth not only in his solo book, but in the Justice League as well. Geoff Johns is handling the writing for both books, and his ability to address the things people find lame about Aquaman head-on has been fantastic. He also had the single most badass moment of any JL character so far:

Aquaman, you guys.

Comeback Badass: Wonder Woman

Despite being one part of the Justice League’s “Holy Trinity,” Wonder Woman never seems to get the recognition that she deserves. While she might not be invincible, her strength is second only to Superman and she’s arguably a better fighter. Her solo outings, however, were rarely very interesting.

The New 52 put an end to that injustice, with Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang spearheading one of the best books DC is putting out. Azzarello currently has Wonder Woman tearing through the ranks of Greek mythology, and Chiang’s art manages to be intense despite his use of softer lines.

If you’re not reading Wonder Woman, go rectify that.

Old Timey Badass: All-Star Western

Old West Gotham: Check. Amadeus Arkham: Check. Jonah Hex: Double check. This category may be loaded – what else is going to be Old Timey Badass? – but All-Star Western is a great book. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti’s story about Jonah and 1800s Gotham is awesomely brutal, and Moritat’s art matches it perfectly.

Plenty more on Page 2!