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View Full Version : Why Exactly Are You Here Again? A Brief Look Into New 52 Batman.



Term
12-31-2013, 05:20 PM
Just a heads up, there will be minor spoilers in this thread concerning Batman's comic continuity, the New 52, and other general DCU points. If you haven't caught up on your comic reading or have an interest in getting into it, turn back now.


So a little backstory here, I finally got around to reading through the first arc of Batman's New 52 line of books by Scott Snyder, thanks to the availability of trades. The New 52, for those who don't know, was the culmination of a DC Crossover event in which The Flash altered the timeline of the DC Universe causing all of DC's holdings to be rebooted and also allowed characters from Vertigo and Wildstorm to be introduced into the DCU when their universes converged when Flash saved the day.

The idea behind this arc from a business standpoint was to help alleviate the biggest issue most people had with introducing themselves to comics, namely that decades of continuity and storylines were too intimidating for new readers and the need to get caught up on certain things was not appealing. So DC decided to press the reset button in order to say to their prospective audience "hey everyone! It's all cool now we're starting fresh and everyone is on the same playing field! All that stuff that happened in the past doesn't matter anymore!"

This would have been great if not for the fact that many aspects of the DCU of old still remained in tact in this continuity. In the instance of Batman, The Killing Joke, one of the greatest Batman stories ever told, still happened, except that Barbara Gordon was not paralyzed and never became Oracle, but instead remained as Bat Girl. The events of "Under the Red Hood" also still happened, in which Jason Todd, the second Robin, was "killed" and subsequently resurrected to take the mantle of The Red Hood as an anti-hero of sorts.

Speaking of Robins, Dick Grayson has already become Nightwing, Tim Drake has already become Red Robin, and Damian Wayne, the son of Bruce and Talia Al Ghul, has taken the mantle of Robin. Unfortunately, Damian has recently been "killed" during the Snyder's third Batman arc, Death of the Family, which has recently been released as a trade. So now there's a vacancy behind the Robin mask, leaving many to wonder who will take the job.

One of the early candidates is a character that was introduced in the Court of Owls arc, a 17-19 or so year old girl with a punk hair cut, several piercings including a nose-ring, named Harper Row. We're unceremoniously introduced to her in issue six of Batman in which she saves the Dark Knight's life with a makeshift defibrillator she created when Batman nearly died after escaping from the Court of Owls. We're treated to an exchange in which Batman says something to the effect of "oh, it's you again. Leave me alone." This infers they have a history together but we've never seen this person before, in any continuity. Harper doesn't show up again until issue 12 which is completely devoted to her backstory. She lives in the Narrows, Gotham's slums, with her younger homosexual brother Cullen. They are emancipated from their father's custody, who is an abusive drunk who doesn't take kindly to his son being gay. Cullen also attracts attention from bullies at school who beat him up on a regular basis. Harper supports her brother by working nights with the Gotham power conpany, which has apparently helped her to become an electrical engineering genius.

For the first quarter of the issue she does nothing but whine about getting dressed up in formal clothing for a Wayne gala and then how much rich people like Bruce Wayne don't understand what life is like in Gotham. The second quarter she spends sticking up for her brother who is beaten up by bullies and the last half is her being obsessed by Batman who, instead of trying to find the assassins who are trying to kill him he spends his time terrorizing teenagers. The next issue that features her is much later in the third arc "Death of the Family" where Snyder again breaks from the more interesting story of the possible deaths of the whole Bat Family and instead we're treated to "Harper and Cullen's Day Out" in which they visit their father who is imprisioned in Blackgate. We're then subjected to watching as Mr. Row spends the majority of the issue emotionally and verbally abusing his children, which makes me wonder if I'm even reading a Batman book at this point. It was already established that their father was a deadbeat who was abusive through exposition. So this entire issue serves absolutely no purpose other than "SEE WHAT A JERK THEIR DAD IS!? SYMPATHIZE WITH THESE CHARACTERS!"

Which leads me to ask "why should I care?" I know the ploys they've used to make me care, but her development has been nothing short of a Mary-Sue level of quality, which is in such stark contrast to what I've already seen out of the Court of Owls arc alone. She's wholly uninteresting, annoying, and has done more to distract from the reason people read the book as opposed to add to it, mainly to see Batman.

So long story short, I really want to like this New 52 Batman. I really do. There's already been some great moments and when they get done with Zero Year I look forward to where we will go back in the present. But forcing Harper Row on me with such awful character development and motivations is making me also afraid that she'll distract from the things I care about in a Batman comic: Friggin Batman.

QT Melon
12-31-2013, 08:10 PM
Interesting topic.

For myself as a former comic reader I actually like the idea of a cleanup of history to get into comics. The problem for me is, while there are some of the right talents that had me buying them in the past I do not want to necessarily revisit the gritty 90's. Much of what the new 52 did was try to become edgy like Image comics. There was a short burst of sales when Image was pretty hot, the art was great but the writing for the most part was rather terrible. So I personally wasn't thrilled to see how some of these characters were done with the Image comics flair.

They look like they were trying to fix some of that, but I have to be honest, it was already a downward spiral. In addition with Bruce Timm retiring from the animation line the other faucet of enjoying these characters is also gone. The Flashpoint animation just felt like an excuse to be edgy with very flimsy reasoning.

You now have the glut of superhero movies coming out, where instead of focusing on the smaller things it becomes the must save the world epic feature. I can't blame Hollywood I suppose for making each one epic, but now epic has become boring and cliche.

I still like these superheroes but it may be time to find better ways of presenting their storylines. I just do not feel any reason to be pulled back into collecting comic books and would rather wait for graphic novels or story collections.

Tiamat
12-31-2013, 08:37 PM
I don't think its such a great idea. Massive reboots can really alienate long time fans.

But...you know I say that...and then look at the recent effort by Jim Lee and Frank "Mr Hollywood" Miller and think to myself "God...make it go away."
So in relation, I guess its not the worst thing to happen to Batman, cos that's already been dealt.

Term
01-01-2014, 01:43 PM
For myself as a former comic reader I actually like the idea of a cleanup of history to get into comics. The problem for me is, while there are some of the right talents that had me buying them in the past I do not want to necessarily revisit the gritty 90's. Much of what the new 52 did was try to become edgy like Image comics. There was a short burst of sales when Image was pretty hot, the art was great but the writing for the most part was rather terrible. So I personally wasn't thrilled to see how some of these characters were done with the Image comics flair.

Like I said part of the issue with the whole reboot deal is that they're still trying to keep certain storylines in tact from pre-52 comics, much of which doesn't make any sense in this timeline. That's I think what bugs me about this that they're trying what amounts to a "soft-reboot."

And yeah I can't deny that some of the books seem to have that 90s vibe to them, though certainly not all the way there. I think there's room for improvement of course. Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad I think looks more like she just popped out of a Top Cow comic to me personally instead of Image. But the whole "Joker's face skinned off" thing was right up that alley. Batgirl is sort of in a middle of the road thing where it's trying to be its own thing but the melodrama of her and James Gordon, Jr. Has just gone on a bit too long.


They look like they were trying to fix some of that, but I have to be honest, it was already a downward spiral. In addition with Bruce Timm retiring from the animation line the other faucet of enjoying these characters is also gone. The Flashpoint animation just felt like an excuse to be edgy with very flimsy reasoning.

I didn't hate Flashpoint. I thought it helped continue a tradition of some fine animation that was coming out of DC Animation, specifically with things like Under the Red Hood, Superman vs the Elites, and New Frontier. The only thing holding it back was yeah, it was more of a ploy to introduce the movies now into the New 52 universe. And really we don't need another "origin" for Justice League which is what's coming next. But eh, at least they've been more consistent with their movies than not, and I almost prefer them to regular television series.


You now have the glut of superhero movies coming out, where instead of focusing on the smaller things it becomes the must save the world epic feature. I can't blame Hollywood I suppose for making each one epic, but now epic has become boring and cliche.

A lot of that has to do I think with the type of heroes they're choosing to use. Aside from Batman, who they've forced "near world ending" on in the last Nolan movie, and Spider-Man, none of the heroes Hollywood has used are what I'd call "Street level" heroes. Guys like Static Shock, Daredevil, Luke Cage, or hell, you could throw Flash in there with his Rouges. But yeah, if its a blockbuster during the summer, they feel the need to go Epic and as you said, epic is getting stale.


I still like these superheroes but it may be time to find better ways of presenting their storylines. I just do not feel any reason to be pulled back into collecting comic books and would rather wait for graphic novels or story collections.

Some of the new stuff is good, don't get me wrong. Court of Owls, despite what I've said, is still a solid arc. Aquaman has actually become a worthwhile read. Justice League Dark is an exciting series for those of us who dig the supernatural side of the DCU. But yeah some are still trying to play that whole 90's edge which is considerably unwanted at this stage. I'm sure a segment of fans like it. But it's not something most of us are looking for these days.


I don't think its such a great idea. Massive reboots can really alienate long time fans.

From what I've seen that hasn't happened as of yet, at least not in large quantities. Sure some books have been canceled, but I don't think it's been done in such great quantity as to be different from any other year.

QT Melon
01-01-2014, 03:14 PM
I don't hate Flashpoint either, but it's rather the vibe that came from it. I don't mind dark storytelling, otherwise I wouldn't have watched all the cutscenes of Injustice Gods Among US (although the Kevlar look is so overdone and everyone obviously shops at the same store). Well Flashpoint also had some bizarre character designs, too...

Top Cow is pretty much Image. Image comics was a few studios put together, Jim Lee (Wildstorm) and Liefeld sold their studios to DC. McFarlane just separated out. It was all under a collective name for distribution. This was when people were supporting more independence for authors and creatives in the comic industry, since at the time your choices were pretty narrow. It's just that certain people were less business oriented. If you recall McFarlane engaged in other deals that kept him afloat and relevant.

The problem is that many women had become interested in these series as well and it is a natural jump considering that females were already big on buying comics (though in this case it was mostly manga) so seeing animation of their favorite characters and potential crossover was chased away because women apparently do not buy toys. It seems odd however that the one industry that is suffering is turning women away.

Tiamat
01-01-2014, 03:17 PM
The problem is that many women had become interested in these series as well and it is a natural jump considering that females were already big on buying comics (though in this case it was mostly manga) so seeing animation of their favorite characters and potential crossover was chased away because women apparently do not buy toys. It seems odd however that the one industry that is suffering is turning women away.

No offense to anyone thats a fan of his, but everything Mcfarlane touches turns to shit sooner or later. He's also just a huge egotistical foul mouthed douche. He was a bad influence on a lot of the young artists at Marvel back in the day.

Krespo
01-01-2014, 03:25 PM
When I first heard DC were rebooting their entire universe, I was excited. Thought I could finally get into comics without reading years worth of stories just to understand what was going on. I actually thought it'd be simple! If I wanted to read Batman, I could pick up a copy of Batman. But how many Batman-related series did they start with again? Ten, was it? The fact DC kept some stories from the old universe didn't make things any easier. The New 52 had the potential to win over people like myself with an interest in comics, but intimidated or put off by their inaccessibility.

QT Melon
01-01-2014, 03:50 PM
No offense to anyone thats a fan of his, but everything Mcfarlane touches turns to shit sooner or later. He's also just a huge egotistical foul mouthed douche. He was a bad influence on a lot of the young artists at Marvel back in the day.

I think that could be said for many of the artists that worked at Image. XD. Seems like Jim Lee is the least vocal artist about. However, I feel that Scott Williams is a better artist. I think he's amazing.

Term
01-01-2014, 09:51 PM
The problem is that many women had become interested in these series as well and it is a natural jump considering that females were already big on buying comics (though in this case it was mostly manga) so seeing animation of their favorite characters and potential crossover was chased away because women apparently do not buy toys. It seems odd however that the one industry that is suffering is turning women away.

Well I know you listened to that Kevin Smith podcast with Paul Dini as I did. It's a sad state when animation of regular series is taking such a hit for, as Dini described it, the random-goofy humor. We're stuck in a weird place where the actual physical comics are taking a dark turn towards gritty adult themes and the television is all lowest-common denominator ADHD preteen programming.

Young Justice is the most recent victim that I think a large part of the community has been upset about (Beware The Batman I don't think got as much love as YJ). And with the more overarching story arcs and plot twists that started to become reminiscent of the excellent Justice League animation from Timm and Dini, it was dumped presumably for the same reason that Dini and you are giving, that the people in charge think they won't be able to sell toys to young boys if a majority of their viewership is made up of families and girls. Great interview but unfortunately it did hit the nail on the head. And good storytelling unfortunately suffers for it. I wouldn't have been opposed to Teen Titans returning but it's current incarnation is unwatchable garbage that's almost an insult to the characters, IMHO.

And wow are we getting off-track from what I was talking about but hey, it all has to do with the state of the DCU so I'll allow it. :V


But how many Batman-related series did they start with again? Ten, was it? The fact DC kept some stories from the old universe didn't make things any easier. The New 52 had the potential to win over people like myself with an interest in comics, but intimidated or put off by their inaccessibility.

There's quite a few. The whole Bat-family is involved and then there's the side-series and everything else. DC isn't dumb. They know Batman is their cash cow. But yeah, it's gotten a bit crazy now with the over-abundance of Bat-books and stuff that finds ways to tie into Batman. That's part of the reason I think Harley Quinn was added as a member of Suicide Squad.

But yeah, it's tough. There's certainly always going to be somewhat of a learning curve with comics, but it's still worth it in some respects I think to get into it. But even then, you should always look to explore outside of DC and Marvel, or even stuff that's not attached to their respective world of superheroes.