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goobyebrianandcliff

With the release a few weeks ago of Wonder Woman Vol. 6: Bones, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s spectacular run on Wonder Woman is now available in full in trade format. The story, told over 35 issues and a few annuals, is compiled in six volumes each sporting a one word title: Blood, Guts, Iron, War, Flesh, and Bones. I imagine DC will release the run in a more concise form- maybe two volumes? omnibus? In its current state, you’ll want to read all six volumes as it is one complete story with suspense constantly building to a very classy plot twist.

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Tasked with rebooting Wonder Woman for the New 52, Azzarello and Chiang made the bold decision to alter her origin story- exposing her origins from clay as lie told to Diana by her mother Hippolyta to keep her own affair with Zeus a secret from Diana and more importantly, Hera, who have demanded retribution for another woman sharing a bed with her husband as is the custom among Olympians. This change to Wonder Woman’s origin story brought forth scores of fantastic characters, a true pantheon of pun-masters. The scripts for this story possess a wit rare in comics or any other medium- a wit that perhaps can only perform in the medium of comics and a wit unabashedly fond of puns.

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I spoke at length about Wonder Woman’s introduction to her extended family tree at last year’s Comics and Popular Arts Conference at Atlanta’s Dragon Con. With each issue, Wonder Woman becomes more acquainted with the citizens and standard operating procedures of Olympus. Hephaestus, Hades, Eros, Dionysus, Aphrodite, Cassandra, Artemis, Apollo, Demeter, Strife, War, and a Wesley Willis-inspired Milan are just a small sample of the colorful characters Wonder Woman now finds herself related to. The whole family adjusts not only to Wonder Woman, but other surprise family members come in to shake things up- particularly the one known only as the First Born.

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Because Wonder Woman has her hands full with all of this family drama, the rest of the DC universe stays largely off the pages of these books with the exception of regular appearances by Orion of New Genesis (not old Olympus). Readers who follow Superman/Wonder Woman know that Superman’s absence from the adventures outlined in this story has left the Man of Steel with some feelings of inadequacy.

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The lack of other DC superheroes is a bit of a blessing. Readers can read this run without feeling the baggage of an entire universe’s continuity. The series has since the New 52’s inception been a title that non-superhero readers could digest more easily than more continuity-rich titles like Green Lantern, Superboy, or any of the Trinity (War or Sin) related titles. Because of this, I highly recommend the collection as a gift for beginner readers. While the book contains a healthy bit of violence, some sexual content, and an intrinsic critique of religion, I believe the book is not only appropriate for young readers, but particularly valuable to a younger audience as it introduces them to Greek mythology as well as sophisticated story-telling elements in a way that’s more enjoyable than formal education.

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As the New 52 comes to a close, this run on Wonder Woman will be remembered as one of the best elements of the reboot. Unlike other great runs (Manupaul and Buccellato’s Flash, Williams and Blackman’s Batwoman (especially), Johns and Reis’s Aquaman) that have ended, this series demonstrates a more perfect overall architecture. As I read the final pages, I feel more satisfied as the story came to its conclusion. The only other run from the New 52 that comes to mind that demonstrated the kind of forethought seen here is Morrison’s Action Comics but the creative teams behind both titles approached rebooting two of DC’s biggest titles. I don’t include Snyder and Capullo’s Batman here because their run hasn’t ended (and hopefully won’t end for a good long while)

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thenew52ends

After weeks of ambiguity regarding the fates of their titles after moving their offices from New York to California, DC Comics cleared things up somewhat with a statement this week. The simple answer: The New 52 is dead! Long live the New 52! The truth: DC Comics is removing the label New 52 and making continuity less of a concern if favor of greater diversity in story-telling. DC is not simply shedding the label, but also an ideological commitment to an experiment. The experiment? A new (err..rebooted) and thoroughly connected (err…though filled with holes) universe (err…multiverse)! Originally planned as 52 titles a month published in sync, following a universal timeline, the New 52 was a lofty ambition. For the experiment to work, creators had to work within a tight framework not only in narrative, but in artistic style- prompting the oft-used terms “DC house-style” or “Jim Lee house style.” These rules allowed a pretty cohesive fictional universe to thrive, but also alienated many creators and readers who wanted stories outside the framework of the larger experiment. By abandoning the New 52 and their ideological commitment to the New 52 experiment, DC Comics will be opening itself up to new, smaller experiments. The publisher’s lineup will be more chaotic this June not only because many titles will leave and many new titles will arrive, but those new titles and even the continuing titles will draw from a larger creative arsenal- new creators, new styles, new impressions on the characters, and new impressions on what super-hero comic books can do. To be fair, DC Comics continued to publish an assortment of books outside of the New 52 such as Lil Gotham and all those video game-related titles. Now new books like Bat-Mite and Bizarro promise to approach comics without the baggage of the New 52 experiment. The official word from DC suggests the end of the New 52 is motivated purely by creative ambitions, but it’s obvious to most readers that DC has found an awkward but workable solution to several concerns: 1) the move to California 2) the stress of managing the big continuity 3) the desire to attract more casual comics readers (the ones reading Image titles) 4) the New 52 is destroying itself.

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That 4th one can be broken down to specific problems within the New 52. I believe the beginning of the end came when the original creative team of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman left Batwoman over creative differences on whether or not Batwoman would marry. While this was not the first dispute-driven departure of a respected creator during the New 52, this departure, unlike George Perez leaving Superman, shook up something that most people believed the New 52 was doing right. Fans and critics alike couldn’t say enough nice things about the work being done on that book. The rush to replace Williams and Blackman with not only a talented creator, but one with a little LGBT cred to ease PR concerns, left Batwoman in the hands of Marc Andreyko and the book got noticeably worse. After Geoff Johns and associates completed their run on the Green Lantern titles, DC found a new creative team, but things fell apart and they again found themselves scrambling the fill some roles. Luckily they found a sort of dream team to take over those titles. Most problematic about the Green Lantern creative team shift, Geoff Johns wrote an epilogue in his final issue of Green Lantern, an epilogue whose authenticity would come immediately into question as the new creative team found ways to destroy all the love stories in that blossomed in that epilogue. Other books saw transitions. The success and failures of titles in transition were surprising. I really expected Chew’s John Layman to write a better Detective Comics while Jeff Lemire wrote a Green Arrow story unlike anything else he’d ever written, reinforcing what his run on Animal Man had suggested- the guy who draws those creepy picture book also has a visionary take on the super-hero model. Another reason why I see the Batwoman shift as the beginning of the end can be seen in the fifth collected volume of the title-  an inconsistency that runs along the spine, singling out the volume among all other New 52 titles as the unmentionable yet obvious stain on the whole endeavor.

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Look at that tiny little five! How embarrassing that must be for Batwoman Vol. 5: Webs! The other book that sticks out in a complete New 52 collection is Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family because it’s white instead of black. While it may still drive the obsessive and compulsive a bit mad to look at, the change is obviously intentional. The tiny 5 on Batwoman Vol. 5 appears to be a Freudian slip, a subconscious expression of shame in ruining one of the New 52’s best titles.

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Since the official announcement of the New 52’s end, I’ve tried to figure what the New 52 really has been. Despite all the Convergence hype, it feels like the experiment is going out with more a whimper than a bang. There’s no real story to tie up as far as I can figure. So the question remains what was the New 52?

Here are 52 things I think made the New 52:

1) The Court of Owls

2) Wonder Woman’s new origin story

3) introduction (and reintroduction) of Vertigo characters into the DC universe

4) Superman-Wonder Woman love story

5) Triumphant revitalization of Aquaman (Throne of Atlantis arc)

6) Titles created just to foster the continuity experiment (Blackhawks, Team 7, OMAC, Threshhold)

7) Crime Syndicate and Forever Evil

8) Darkseid’s destruction of Earth-2 and Superman’s subsequent reign

9) Death of Damian Wayne

10) Skinny Lobo

11) Rotworld arc

12) Justice League Dark formation

13) Central role for The Phantom Stranger

14) Central role for Pandora

15) Future’s End

16) Joker cut off his face

17) Muslim Green Lantern

18) Gay Green Lantern

19) Young Green Arrow

20) Walking Barbara Gordon

21) Brother-killing Batgirl

22) Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham

23) Penguin takes control and loses control and regains control of Gotham criminal underworld

24) Catwoman takes control of Gotham criminal underworld

25) The Riddler brings Gotham to its knees

26) Batman Eternal and Jim Gordon’s blues

27) The most sophisticated Mr. Mxyzptlk story in DC history

28) Guy Gardner became a Red Lantern

29) The Guardians of the Universe were replaced by new Guardians of the Universe after proving themselves fascist tyrants one too many times

30) Kyle Rayner continued to become more messianic

31) Hal Jordan became the leader of the Green Lantern Corps

32) Superboy was a clone of Superman’s wicked son Jonathan Lane Kent from the future and also there were other Superboys

33) Cyborg Superman is… Supergirl’s father?

34) Lucius Fox’s son becomes Batwing

35) Harley Quinn did it with Deadshot

36) H’el on Earth (and Krypton)

37) The Culling of Teen Titans and Ravagers and a general feeling that Scott Lobdell was going to end up writing every title in the DC universe

38) Short lives of good titles (I, Vampire; Voodoo; Mr. Terrific; Captain Atom; Dial H)

39) Huntress and Power Girl, the World’s Finest of Earth-2, arrived on the primary Earth

40) Daniel West is the Reverse-Flash

41) Bad futures depicted in Justice League 3000, Future’s End, Superboy, Teen Titans, and the Legion of Super-heroes

42) Aimless movement from the Legion of the Super-heroes

43) Two heavy-handed comics nobody liked (The Green Team and The Movement)

44) Martian Manhunter with Stormwatch, Martian Manhunter without Stormwatch

45) The return of Lyssa Drak and a Sinestro-led Sinestro Corps

46) Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE and other Dark titles

47) Trinity War

48) Lights Out, Relic, and the draining of the emotional spectrum

49) Trying to figure out what to do with Darkseid

50) Trying to figure out what to do with Deathstroke

51) The Rogues with super-powers

52) Company-wide campaigns particularly in Septmember- 3D covers, MAD variants, Scribblenauts, Robot Chickens, Zero Year, etc.

As frequenters of this site know, crosswords of varying difficulty have appeared sporadically since the site began. The empire was built on those little boxes, penciled in between our slings and arrows, our ups and downs. Yesterday a small start up tech firm known as The Google brought attention to the 100th anniversary of the versatile medium. Those nerds celebrated with an animated doodle. The World’s Second Greatest Detective , refusing to be outdone by a bunch of coder and cooties, decided to massacre two birds with one stone by simultaneously commemorating the 100th anniversary of the crossword with the publication of DC Comics New 52 Villains Omnibus, a mammoth tome featuring each of DC Comics Villains Month issues from this past September, with a DC Villains Crossword. The answers are all titles taken from the New 52 Villains Omnibus, so don’t go looking for Catwoman, Hush, Amazo, Gentleman Ghost, etc. If you need a list of those titles, click here.  If you click on the puzzle, it gets much bigger too.

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Across

5. what’s cooler than cool? ice cold

7. classic teen tightener

8. makes lions cowardly with gas

9. say hello to their little friend

10. pointed the Flash to Flashpoint

11. more badass than Duane Chapman

16. rules Gotham from a shadowed perch, behind granite and lime

17. the blackest night’s blackest knight

22. rough in a diamond

23. lives in the worst part of Gotham City

25. if dialing h gets you preparation e, this is how you get preparation h

29. Jordan’s friend, Natu’s father

30. Aquaman’s brother

32. Can be usually be found at the Iceberg

33. Solomon Grundy died on Saturday, but Superman died on this one

34. Born in the dark, molded by it

35. I make a point of never being clueless, who am I?

36. One of the Jor-El’s best buddies if only in his mind

38. faster pussycat kill kill

39. So Raven

43. Played poorly by Kevin Spacey

44. big bad harv

45. Has a cooler collection of bottles than any frat boy you know

47. Of all of Darkseid’s minions, he probably finds the most sexual gratification from spanking

Down

1. Coast City’s least favorite Superman

2. Not the handsomest villain but possibly the hungriest

3. one of the few female characters to put on more clothes in the New 52

4. his scientific discoveries were vital to Talia’s war on Batman, Inc.

6. Wonder Woman’s brother

8. whether male or female, a problem for hawkman

10. looking to put Green Lanterns’ lights out

12. A failure for Lex Luthor, especially compared to Superboy

13. One of Jor-El’s best buddies

14. hair like the Joker

15. Inspired the pornographic thespian Jack Napier

16. poison ivy planted seeds in him

17. gave Aquaman’s dad a heart attack

18. one bullet minimalist

19. Gems of the Gem Cities

20. digs lysistrata and wearing other people’s faces

21. most wtf character choice in Injustice video game

24. Grandfather to Thomas Wayne’s grandson

26. of Super Villains

27. just another clever beat inventing knowing

28. put the rot in rot world

31. The man with a kryptonite heart

37. aims to make aiming arrows difficult

40. once wore a lot of Sinestro Corps rings

41. christened Cyrus Gold, possibly on a Tuesday

42. iconic cosplay favorite who appeared in an animated series before appearing in a comic

45. subject of the best storyline in 52

46. kisses with his Apokolips

Google across my angry middle finger

Above you can see what Google’s doodle looked like while below you can find the correct responses to the crossword clues.

answers

Eat your weiner

One of the most efficient devices employed to distinguish a character from the setting in which that character has been placed is to have that character encounter something commonplace in the setting, but alien to that character. Examples of this abound, particularly in television and film- two mediums that lend themselves too easily to intellectual laziness. When exploring the idea of time travel, this trope is particularly over-used- think Encino Man, Dark Shadows, Captain America, etc. Seeing someone from the past or future encounter the present fills the contemporary audience with some flimsy pride- “I’m so much informed about physics than Captain America because I know who Stephen Hawking is!” when a much better assessment might be who understands the work of Einstein or Feynman better. I suppose we should forgive our story-tellers for relying too frequently on this crutch as it continues to serve effectively in creating an atmosphere and pleasing the herd. In cases of time-travel, the joke is overused, but not particularly offensive. Its humor somewhat simple and too familiar, but capable of accomplishing its objective because of that simplicity and familiarity.

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In addition to time travel, this device is often used to show how alien aliens are, how robotic robots are, how foreign foreigners are- to identify the outsider. In these cases, the joke can feel a bit more like bullying and certainly more ethnocentric. The relationship between comic books and cliché is important- it gives pop art its substance. In both plot and art, the comic book works from the necessity to establish identifiable types and, like other mediums of artistic expression, the comic book works best when it uses those types against themselves. Recently in the New 52, DC Comics employed this trick- not once, not twice, but thrice! (possibly more, I don’t read every DC title)

1. In Justice League International, the British hero Godiva introduces her Chinese teammate August General in Irons to the exotic food that every 20th Century American child aspired to be: hot dogs. Following the tradition of this trope, August General  in Iron is baffled by the strange item and Godiva feels like an ambassador of holy truth. This one’s pretty dumb because Chinese people love themselves some sausage. Sausage has been a part of the Chinese diet for a long time and while hot dogs were introduced more recently, they’ve been in China for more than a century and have infiltrated Chinese daily life (usually eaten on stakes rather than in buns) to such an extent that surely August General in Iron had many opportunities to eat a hot dog before joining the JLI. (pictured at top of article)

2. In Superboy, Cassie and Kon-El find themselves on a mysterious island shaped like a question mark. Like any teenager would in this situation, Cassie makes her first priority skinny-dipping and her second finding food. Superboy understands neither bathing nor eating because he’s an alien clone only months out of his test tube. Like Godiva, Wonder Girl becomes a somewhat sexualized ambassador of truth- tada! Boobs and bananas! (pictured in the middle of the article)

3. The first time in the New 52 that DC Comics employs this trick is in its flagship title Justice League, a title which must be mandatory reading for all the creators working in the DC universe as its effects are felt by the most titles. Because of both the book’s central role and its popularity, we can assume that the creative teams behind Justice League International and Superboy witnessed the most eloquent of this cliché’s employmeny in the new 52 when a young girl introduces Wonder Woman to ice cream. (pictured below)

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I don’t think this joke is too offensive and I certainly don’t think it’s very creative, but employed with certain consideration, the joke can be very offensive and perhaps even creative. When the joke is posited between classes and especially classes weighted by race or caste, this cheap amusement can be especially damaging- “Look at the peasant who can’t figure out which fork to use!” or more bitingly “Look at the peasant who can’t read, can’t operate a computer, can’t afford the same level of health care or education, etc.”

One variation on this theme is the immigrant humbled by the awesomeness of the United States. One example of this in the New 52 can be found in Teen Titans when the hyper-gay hyper-immigrant hyper-Latin-American hero-type Bunker first encounters Red Robin in the land of the free and home of the brave.

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When the Other is amazed, the Hegemon is what?

No matter, the cat likes to eat both the country mouse and the city mouse.

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This is the third installment of Bests and Worsts of the New 52, following the first and the second ,where I mostly praised the work being done at DC even when nominating books for Worsts. This entry will continue in that tradition. Also I am describing the first 52 or so collections, not the issues on the stands or titles like Earth-2 or World’s Finest which haven’t been collected yet. A few of the Bests and Worsts here will deal with sexuality in the New 52. It is an undeniable characteristic of this universe, geek culture, and real life. If sexuality makes you uncomfortable, that’s totally normal and you just try to deal with it as best you can. In the collage above, I included elements from panels that celebrate feminine features.

Best and Worst of the Young Justice Family of Titles

Best: Teen Titans Teen Titans is a fun book. The characters are all very distinct. I especially like the new characters. As a gay Mexican immigrant, Bunker is relevant and liberating, yet condescending and slightly offensive- I love it. Bunker might be my favorite new hero of the New 52- not my favorite new character, because that would probably the Court of Owls. Bunker, Kid Flash, and Wonder Girl bring a lot of humor to the book. The Superboy story is reliable Superboy narrative and ties in smoothly with this book. Scott Lobdell also writes Red Hood and the Outlaws, which is also a team book featuring a non-Nightwing former Robin, but wildly different than Teen Titans. Tim Drake has probably lost the most agency in the New 52. In this book, he reminds me a lot of the Robin rip-off in The Uniques, which is a fun independent superhero book about the emotional and physical battles of young white superheroes.

Worst: Legion of Super-Heroes. Brainiac-5’s cheesy hair.

Best and Worst Fishnet Reboot

Best: Zatanna in Justice League Dark. Zatanna has lost the traditional magician (magician’s assistant?) costume and embraced a very goth, very Vertigo Death look. The look changes her dramatically. No longer does she hint of potentially pulled rabbits and endless scarves. She wears her fishnets on her arms now, perhaps to hide the track marks because she’s become just that rock n roll. I’m super-excited about Guillermo del Toro’s alleged movie version of Justice League Dark and anticipate falling in love with the actresses who play Madame Xanadu and Zatanna. Justice League Dark and Hellboy have a lot in common and both Hellboy movies were incredible.

Worst: Black Canary in Birds of Prey. What happened to Dinah Lance? She’s a character in name only on Arrow, never exhibiting metahuman powers or donning fish nets. On Smallville, she did not fall in love with Oliver or stay true to the Black Canary comic couture. On the Birds of Prey television program, she was nigh a child. On the pages of Birds of Prey, she’s wearing the worst rebooted outfit of the New 52. It doesn’t make sense- which has never been a problem for super-ladies before. It’s not fashionable – which has also never been a problem for super-ladies before. It robs Black Canary of her working class roots- this is a problem. Black Canary is supposed to the biker chick badass next door and now she looks like space army Barbie.

Best and Worst News for Fans of Semi-Nude Cosplay

Best: White Rabbit in Batman- The Dark Knight. I think she’s also the most scantily clad new villain of the New 52. I might be wrong about that. If I am, please correct me. The New 52 has no shortage of exposed flesh. It also abounds in varieties of woman’s underthings.

Worst: Poison Ivy in Birds of Prey. As Harley Quinn abandons the bodysuit in favor of less conservative attire, Poison Ivy has chosen a new costume that would deny convention peepers the always popular string of leaves.

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I’m posting a crossword puzzle that I made based on characters from DC Comics. Hopefully it proves to be a fun and challenging distraction for some of you. Click here or at the crossword link on the top of the page to have a try. Following the link will allow you to see the clues.

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