In 2011, DC Comics revamped its entire line of ongoing comic books. All of its existing titles were canceled and 52 new series were released in their place. This relaunch of their comics was known as “the New 52.” Despite the events of the New 52 being a result of Flashpoint, which is a widely loved story arc, many fans and readers were put off by it. In fact, the New 52 is a comic book event that is often hated.
Due to the outcry from fans who didn’t like the direction in which the New 52 took their favorite characters and stories, DC decided to bring it to an end in 2016 in order to enter a new event known as “Rebirth.” Rebirth served as a relaunch of its titles that were canceled for the New 52. The distaste for the New 52 is understandable, as ditching what fans know and love to create something else is not the wisest decision for a publisher to make. However, does the New 52 truly deserve the massive amount of hate that it often gets?
Let’s take a look at what folks didn’t like about the actual content of the New 52 rather than just the existence of it. There were complaints that many heroes and villains were out of character, like Superman being a bit edgier and more brash, Captain Cold and the Rogues gaining superpowers instead of using the gadgets that they’re known for, and the Teen Titans being formed by an entirely different group of characters as the usual crew were aged up and were never associated with with the team at all. Wally West, who served as the Flash for 23 years, was sort of thrown out for Barry Allen to take on the title for the first time in a couple of decades. Romances, like Clark Kent and Lois Lane’s marriage, along with other character development, were completely reset. For long time comic book readers, there was a solid reason to be upset.
That being said, were the stories within the New 52 at least enjoyable regardless of anything that came before? The short answer is “absolutely.” Sure, there were a couple of misses that didn’t do so well critically, but there were plenty of genuinely fantastic stories. Geoff Johns’ run on Aquaman made the character one of their heavy hitters once again. The Justice League forming to take on Darkseid and his army of Parademons was nothing short of exciting and entertaining. Let’s not forget the debut of the creepy and mysterious Court of Owls.
There are seemingly-infinite storylines and titles when it comes to superhero comics. It can make getting into them quite intimidating. The New 52 provided a jumping on point for newcomers who didn’t know where to start. Instead of forcing themselves to pick up a story that’s already at issue #500 or so, they were able to have a beginning to start at. It’s likely that a lot of readers got into comics because of this fresh start.
On top of that, where there are comic stories that go on for several years with hundreds of issues, it’s nice that the New 52 has a finite amount of reading involved. You don’t have to worry about a multiple-decades’ long commitment. There are quite a lot of books within the New 52, but there is an ending to it. This event provided an opportunity to read a standalone story of sorts. One that is composed of 52 interconnected titles in a shared universe, but a completed one nonetheless.
Comics, especially DC, showcase various timelines and universes within the multiverse fairly frequently. There are “infinite Earths” within DC, and the New 52 can just be considered to be yet another alternate Earth. With superhero comics, if you don’t like a current arc or event, just wait until the next one. New ones aren’t going to stop popping up any time soon, and they all technically exist within the multiverse.
Attempting to ditch what fans love was definitely not a smart choice, but the New 52 was full of great storylines and provided a jumping on point for new comic readers, which is rare to find. Feeling upset at the time the New 52 came out is understandable for long-time readers, but the event wasn’t really that bad. In fact, it’s quite enjoyable. It doesn’t truly deserve the amount of hate that it continues to get.