After enduring unhealthy doses of marketing and a head-spinning month of rebooted first issues, Wired.com's verdict on DC Comics' New 52 is in.
The good news? The New 52 dominated sales in September, with its expansive retooling of its characters pushing DC past perennial competitor Marvel Comics for the first time in nearly a decade. The bad news? Thanks to its sprawling series roster, the New 52 reboot campaign barely came in average in the narrative ambition department.
Overweight with everything from expository diarrhea and clichéd archetypes to outright misogyny and misguided "upgrades" (Wonder Woman has a dad?), the majority of the New 52 titles squandered a boatload of cultural capital.
When the first issues arrived in September, we were ecstatically looking forward to how DC would revise everything from its characters' costumes to their reason for being. By the time the month's deluge ended, we were almost spiritually exhausted by the stunning lack of imagination.
Well, not entirely. Five of the comics shown in the gallery above turned out to be as good as we hoped or even better (especially the cerebral psychedelia found in Jeff Lemire's astounding Animal Man). But these winners crowned the peak of an underwhelming heap dominated by middling comics peddling casual ultraviolence, post-millennial sexism and surly superheroes in search of reasons to exist in a world needing champions more than ever.
Just like that fake superhero finally arrested in Seattle, the New 52's superstars — save a scant few, led by Grant Morrison's Superman — seem happier being self-indulgent antiheroes than gods of Earth and space. It's a sad commentary on both the state of Marvel and DC's comics duopoly, as well as what we define as heroic in a 21st century running out of empathy.
Scroll through our gallery of the best and worst of the New 52, and let us know in the comments section below if you think DC Comics' Editor in Chief Bob Harras and co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio (whose demented O.M.A.C. barely missed the cut for the best) should've worked smarter for the money.
The most gifted writer in comics today, Grant Morrison takes the leash off Superman and, with the kinetic artistry of Rags Morales, transforms him into a light-speed champion of the disenfranchised in this breathless reboot of DC Comics' foundational Action Comics.
There's little trace of the teen anguish, identity crises and other tired clichés that sell soap in comics and on screens to consumers with First World problems. Instead, we get a benevolent farm boy blowing past city slickers on the way to ludicrous injustice after injustice, reminding us of the reality outside the page on the way. Look at his freakish face above on the cover of Action Comics No. 2, which was released last week: Superman's so pissed that he's being tortured by Lex Luthor for trying to help people that he's about to eat his own lips.