DC had a huge amount of momentum heading into 2006. Infinite Crisis, their biggest crossover in 20 years, was at its halfway point. They rode that momentum into the One Year Later launch in March, and followed that up with the historic weekly series 52. And somehow DC managed to retain a cohesive universe throughout the whole thing. Towards end the year, DC focused its attention on the Wildstorm universe, relaunching the entire line with A-list creators.
DC got it right. This was a major crossover that actually did matter. DC history was re-written after the end of Infinite Crisis. There was a major status quo change regarding the multiverse. Infinite Crisis reached every comer of the DCU and produced a damn fine story in the process.
I’m not going to lie and say the art thing didn’t bother me. The art quality was inconsistent and it did hurt the story. But as much as Tom Brevoort wants to use that as an excuse to justify Marvel’s screw-ups, it just wasn’t much of an issue in the grand scheme of things. The story was strong… so strong that it would have been good even if Rob Liefeld was on art. But if it wouldn’t have come out in a relatively timely manner, the impact would have been lost in the shuffle of the DC Universe moving on without it. Besides, DC even went back and redid some of the art for the hardcover they put out. Problem solved.
That whole “Superboy punched a wall” continuity catch-all that came out of all this could get pretty annoying if they go back to it too often, though.
One Year Later
In March, every single current-continuity DC Universe title jumped forward one year in time. We got a glimpse into the DCU that existed after Infinite Crisis ended, before it had actually ended. Some titles benefited trom the change while others suffered, but one thing was certain: it was a great marketing ploy. I gave almost every single title at least a two-issue try out, and I read a lot more DC titles every month now than I did before March.
A lot of titles coming out of OYL were fantastic. In February I’d never even consider touching an Aquaman book with a ten-foot pole, but Kurt Busiek’s short run on Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis became one of my favorite series of the year. I’ll probably even stick with the title once he leaves because of what he’s done with it. The Superman books were also tremendous, thanks again to Kurt Busiek at the helm. The “Up, Up and Away” arc he wrote with Geoff Johns is one of the best Superman stories I’ve ever read. Supergirl & The Legion of Superheroes is the best book DC puts out monthly right now. Robin and Birds of Prey have been great. Detective Comics is Batman the way Batman should always be written.
Some relaunches weren’t so great, though. Catwoman, which was entertaining me before OYL, fell flat without Selina in the leather jumpsuit. Batman has been subpar, especially compared to the stellar Detective Comics. JSA seemed to be going through the motions waiting for the big relaunch in December. Hawkgirl was just boring. And do I even need to mention Nightwing?
Did the good outweigh the bad, though? Well, that probably depends on whether the books you read before OYL survived the jump without too much collateral damage. Personally, I was more than willing to sacrifice Catwoman and Nightwing for Aquaman and Superman.
Love it or hate it, 52 is historic. A 52-issue weekly series has never been attempted before in comics. A lot of people didn’t think DC had a chance to put out each issue on time. At the rate DC is going, it looks like they’ll be proved wrong come May 2.
Set in real time, 52 has been filling in the year that was lost between the end of Infinite Crisis and the beginning of One Year Later. Without any of the big guns to work with, DC put Booster Gold, Black Adam, Ralph Dibny, Renee Montoya, The Question and Steel in the lead roles. Later they’d add Starfire, Animal Man, Adam Strange, Batwoman and the Helmet of Fate to the cast, kill off Booster and introduce Supernova, a mysterious new superhero that’s most likely a not-quite-so-dead-as-we-thought Booster Gold.
The art on the series has been acceptable, but rarely spectacular. Some of the individual issues have been entirely forgettable, but on a whole the story has been quite compelling. While Black Adam stood out at the beginning as the star of the series, Ralph Dibny and Renee Montoya, the non-super members of the cast, seem to be the driving force behind the meat of the story.
Unfortunately, 52 really doesn’t feel that important in the grand scheme of the DC Universe. None of the lead characters have been seen in a OYL DC title, so you get the feeling that they either don’t make it out
of the series alive or what they did over the course of these fifty two weeks just don’t really matter. DC had to know that would be a problem when they made the decision to not use these characters outside of 52 for an entire year. Of course, if we knew everything that happened to the characters after the series was over, we’d really have no reason to care about what happened before that.
DC relaunched it’s Wildstorm imprint late in the year with the World storm crossover. While it didn’t reset continuity the way Infinite Crisis did, it did start all of the titles over with #1 issues and gave them a caliber of A-list creators they’d never seen before.
A-list creators don’t necessarily spell success, though. We all read Deathblow #1 as a part of our Books of Doom reviews, and not a single one of us enjoyed it. Doom DeLuise bought the Worldstorm preview issue and had a fit afterward. I don’t really remember seeing any reaction of any kind towards the relaunch online, which is never a good sign. Even a strong negative reaction would have been preferable to none at all, because that would at least meant someone cared a little.
I’ve never had any desire to read a Wildstorm book, though (excepting non-universe titles Planetary and Ex Machina). So maybe my opinion on the matter doesn’t really matter.