As recent trends in film, video games and clothing have indicated, Americans love comic book characters. But, as recent sales trends have indicated, Americans don’t love comic books. We’re talking about an industry where $4 gets you 20 pages of material that doesn’t tell a full story, and you won’t be able to read the next section for another month, mind you. So it’s no surprise that, aside from a few select fanboys, no one’s been buying many comics lately.
Everyone in the industry has realized this, and each company has its own way of dealing with it. DC Comics, the folks who bring us such big guys as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and…um…Static Shock, has approached this with the The New 52!, meaning they’ve ended every single series they run and are slowly rebooting every comic from Issue 1. Considering most people’s problems with comics is that their sprawling mythos is hard to get into, this seems like a great plan.
But any change is bound to bring up critics, and DC has had its fair share even before the books launched. Notable arguments involved the lack of female authors and illustrators: a trend in the industry, that, when coupled with such things as Power Girl’s “chest-window” and Green Lantern’s “girlfriend-in-a- refrigerator,” makes comic books look like they’re trapped in the time when female superheroes’ main team roles were moral support, fashion design and being kidnapped. Indeed, many fans complained during a period of never-ending Wonder Woman redesigns that I’ve dubbed “Pantsgate.” Should Wonder Woman finally start wearing pants in a stance of visual equality to Superman and Batman, or should she still wear a one-piece bathing suit all day because it’s “sexier” and “classic?” Ultimately, weeks of internet argument ended with the only visible change being
an increase in Wonder Woman’s bust size, which I suppose isn’t exactly the feminist victory some fans were hoping for.
Additional early complaints included accusations of racism. Every single member of the new Justice League is a white male save for two: one white woman and one “Cyborg,” everyone’s favorite ‘half-black, half-machine, all-attitude’ bruiser from TV’s Teen Titans. This time, there aren’t even racially-ambiguous aliens like Martian Girl to save them, nor is there a black Green Lantern. It’s just that. It’s a step forward, insists DC, but early press material that often excluded Cyborg completely made it clear to many fans that he was truly the “token.”
I was able to pick up a copy of Justice League #1 before my comic book store inevitably sold out of it, and I have to say that, though I’m not blown away, it was good, clean comic book fun. Oddly enough, this issue only features Green Lantern and Batman, but my two favorite superheroes do make an excellent team. The whole issue is basically the duo engaging in witty bantered around centering on Batman’s incredible competence but lack of powers and Green Lantern’s general idiocy but godlike skills. It’s great fun, and well- written, but “witty banter and little else” seems like an odd way to say “Welcome to the re-launch of our primary comic series!”
The comic also features the beginning of a subplot about the creation of Cyborg. We see our hero, prior to being roboticized, as a high school football star, and there are implications that he’s destined for more than he realizes. But there’s not enough time to chat with Cyborg, because we have to see Green Lantern and Batman exchange more witty lines.
There’s not much else to this. The art is tragically overworked, with every character’s costume covered in random lines to make them look “cool” and explosions riddling every page. A cleaner, simpler art style would’ve gone further, and indie comic creators across the web have been trying their hand at redoing this in that style for a while now.
But at the end of the day, all of those original complaints have yet to shine through. Wonder Woman’s not here and half the team does nothing, which leaves no way for audiences to judge Cyborg’s usefulness. Of course, this just means that the anger will flare up again, and by the time Issue 3 comes around, I’ll be parsing through pages and pages of angry internet comments all over again. But for now, this reboot could’ve been much worse. And I’ll be picking up the next issue, if only because someone’s got to be the hero whose purchases save this industry, and it might as well be me.