Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Trouble with Reboots

I've finished reading through my pull list, though there are a couple additional issues I picked up that I still need to work through.

I did pick up most of the Batman issue #0's, which have inspired me to write a bit about the nature of comic reboots and DC's New 52 specifically.

The New 52 Bat-Family

The (somewhat acceptable) reasons for a reboot:

New Readership: the comic universe/stories have become too convoluted for new readers to jump in. 90's comics in particular are notorious for this. A reboot provides a spot for new readers to jump in, even if they have no knowledge of anything that came prior.

- The other way to fix this is to keep the universe consistent, but renumber/title the series. With the first few issues, the writers have to make sure they're writing introductory pieces to help get new readers up to pace ASAP. Uncanny X-Force #1 (which I've just read) included a brief-yet-detailed timeline at the end of the issue, and I found it extremely useful. This can be difficult, however, if other related series that constantly tie in are not given similar treatments.

Updated Timelines: with reboots, years can be turned back on well loved characters. Batman's first appearance was in 1939, yet Bruce Wayne still looks to be in his late 20s/early 30s. In a progressive story where events that shape the world take place and time actually seems to pass, this can be VERY disconcerting. Before the reboot, Batman had enough time to train several Robins: the oldest of which became the hero Nightwing when he reached adult age and the most recent being Bruce's own 10 year old son (I think he was ten pre-reboot, anyway).

This shows that over a decade has passed for Bruce Wayne -- he should be starting to show his age more and more, and the comics must go on. With a reboot, time can be condensed. Since comics try not to pile major event on top of major event, there can be a lot of time in-between important events. The New 52 reboot has Bruce Wayne being Batman for only six years, though Nightwing and Damien are still around (There are other examples as well). More on this when I get to the problems with reboots... Though we now have a younger Bruce Wayne set in today's world(ish). This allows new, updated stories with the same faces that have become icons.
An example of a confusing timeline (Spider-Man)

Fixing Characters/Stories: sometimes, important characters get killed or universe changing events happen that make it hard to keep a story going forward. This is in addition to convoluted, year long storylines. To fix this, the universe can be completely reset. Sure, it can cheapen a character's death, but it can also lead to a surge in readership and interest. I'm thinking of the death of (Barry Allen) Flash during Crisis on Infinite Earths. He dies in 1985 but came back in 2005 during another major event. Most current example is that Barbara Gordon is Batgirl again in the New 52, though it looks like they might be crippling her again with the upcoming storyline.

-This isn't a great way to fix it, but it can be the most effective for reviving/fixing multiple characters.

The infamous Retcon Punch. Ouch.
Those are the only appropriate reasons I can think of off the top my my head. Inappropriate ones go from lazy writing to money grubbing, which I won't go into any detail about.

The problem with reboots are that they alienate long time fans: those stories you've grown to love and feel define your favorite character? Yeah, they no longer matter to the character being currently published. For all intents and purposes, that character is gone, replaced with some similar, but NOT the same. MAYBE your favorite storyline will be revisited... but even then, it can't be done as well as the original.

The New 52 is suffering from some other issues as well. They've completely removed fan-favorite characters and have NOT been 100% clear as to what stories from the past have occurred and which haven't (similar to Spider-Man's Brand New Day). Also, none of the characters in the New 52 have been given actual origin stories -- all the #1 issues are about "established" characters dealing with new situations. The #0 issues aren't helping. They are little more than summaries or snapshots of events that happened early/at the beginning of the characters timeline. And some of these are dramatically different from the pre-52 stories, putting everything between issue #0 to issue #1 in question.

Example: Batman and Robin #0 focuses on the creation and raising of Damien Wayne. Apparently, he was a test tube baby, made from Bruce and Talia's DNA. That is already a bad idea, but the end of the issue has Damien meeting Batman for the first time when he is 10 years old. Remember, New 52 Batman has ONLY been around for 6-7 years.

... Damien was made as a pawn between Talia and Bruce before Batman even existed? They'll explain it that the idea of Batman was developed with Talia at some point, but it's really NOT making the story less convoluted. This is without stopping to consider that Batman STILL trained the following Robins: Dick Grayson (now Nightwing), Jason Todd (who was killed AND brought back to life and is now the Red Hood), Tim Drake (who is now Red Robin, leading the Teen Titans), and now Damien.

Tim Drake's back story is touched upon in Teen Titans #0: apparently he never became "Robin" because he didn't want to dishonor Jason's memory, but even that doesn't make it clear how long he worked with Batman.
Damien finding a cowl as a child... Makes sense.

If you're confused, good. That's my point. The New 52 is confusing it's new readership (and generally upsetting the old), it's making a poor stab at updating timelines, and it doesn't do anything resembling fixing characters/storylines. Considering this, it seems the reboot really was just done for the wrong reasons, and this is a sad day for their readers.

As you'll see in the upcoming Pull List Review, I'm dropping most of the DC titles. Check out the actual post to see which ones, though know that I'll still follow the stories somewhat, I'm just going to wait for the New 52 to figure out what direction it's taking/iron its stories out a bit more before I start reading again. This is to avoid the confusion of only getting pieces of needed back story at a time AND to skip rehashed plots (they're seriously calling the next Joker storyline "Death of the Family." Uhg.).

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