Reboots in the comic book world are nothing new and really nothing rare. When DC announced they were going to reboot their entire universe and renumber every title at #1, it caused a lot of controversy within the comics community. I think the initial reaction was shock, followed by anger. You would have thought by some people’s comments that their grandmother had just been murdered. But as details were slowly released by DC, the fans calmed down and most took a wait and see attitude.
Now that all 52 #1s have been released, we can evaluate the new DC universe. Certainly, one of DC’s goals was achieved. Sales of the New 52 exceeded almost everyone’s predictions, with most of the titles going back for second and third printings.
The continuity of the New 52 began with Flashpoint #5. As the Flash (Barry Allen) raced to restore the timestream, a mysterious cloaked figure ominously intoned, “… the history of heroes was shattered into three long ago. Splintered to weaken your world for their impending arrival. You must all stand together. The timelines must become one again. You can help me fix that, Barry Allen, but at a cost.” It’s not explicitly stated, but by looking at the illustrations surrounding the figure we can infer that the three timelines are the DC, Wildstorm, and presumably Milestone imprints that DC owns, although the Milestone universe had previously been integrated into the main DC universe. By doing this, DC was able to retain or discard whatever previous continuity they wanted. In essence, they created what I refer to as Earth-N, an alternate timeline that is similar, but noticeably different from any previous incarnation. This enables DC to rightfully claim that every previous story still matters, they’re just in a different timeline.
The reference to “their impending arrival” is not at all explained. Most likely, it refers to some new or established villain that will threaten the combined might of the DC superheroes. “At a cost” is also not explained, but may refer to the loss of certain continuity from the old timeline to Earth-N.
In the same splash page we see some of the new costume and character designs for Earth-N. Perhaps the most notable difference is that Superman no longer wears his red underpants on the outside. All of the characters appear younger and have some slight costume changes.
DC divided the New 52 into groups. “Justice League” includes eleven of the major superhero titles, except Batman and Superman, who each have their own groups. There are four books in the “Superman” group and eleven in the “Batman” group. The “Green Lantern” group contains four titles. A group called “The Dark” consists of seven books dealing with horror themes. This is in contrast to “The Edge” group that has nine titles of various supernatural and military characters. Finally, the “Young Justice” group comprises six books featuring teenage superheroes.
I’ll take a closer look at individual titles of the New 52 in future posts.