A year ago, DC relaunched their entire line of comics with 52 brand new first issues. They also reboot their shared universe, although they made a point of saying that the two franchises that made them money -- Green Lantern and Batman -- would remain mostly the same.
I would have to imagine that deciding what to do with the GL and Batman lines was a tough call, but I'll get to more on that in a minute.
So here we are, a year later, and everyone is giving their views on why the relaunch was either good or bad. God forbid I stay silent!
I was a huge fan of the idea of the relaunch, although that was mostly because it was something to be excited about with regards to corporately owned comics. The Big Two hadn't gotten me excited about their products in years. It was also nice to be given and opportunity to try some titles that I might not have ever thought to try in the past. Smart retailers were offering deals for people who ordered all 52 new #1's. That's what I did.
The initial launch was equal parts good and equal parts bad. The failure to hire creators who weren't straight white men was a colossal mistake for a company whose expressed goal for the relaunch was to modernize and diversify. While it was great that Jim Lee's Justice League was the flagship title, having a special midnight sale and only offering the one book was a big misstep, particularly given the efforts to bring in non-comic book readers. All they were going to find was a single, superhero comic for them to try, instead of a wide range of genres that might actually be appealing to them.
The upside was that there WAS a wide range of genres as part of the New 52, including some cross genre pollination of traditional superhero characters. DC really seemed to try to return to it's pre-Crisis roots with its line up; they weren't just superhero books anymore.
The problem with that is that they seemed obsessed with the number 52, and I challenge you to find me 52 different creative teams that are, if not great, than at least good. Oh, and they have to be able to produce a new issue every month. That's not going to happen. So the quality on the New 52 books fell off a cliff past a certain title, and the books in free fall were usually the non-superhero ones.
Here's the thing: As I've been reading these comics for the past year and watching as they've slowly but surely changed things in the Batman line that were supposed to remain untouched -- changed them for no apparent reason other than that they feel they can, I've realized that the reboot has been a fairly spectacular failure. The relaunch, on the other hand, has been pretty good.
There is one clear way of determining whether or not DC's reboot (not relaunch) worked: Would still having all that old continuity (such as it was) have made the current batch of titles impossible?
The answer is no.
Let's look at what's been most successful in the New 52 so far, and I mean that in both a sales sense and based upon critical reception.
You've got the "dark" line of books, anchored by Swamp Thing and Animal Man. Both could have existed in the old DCU and, in fact, both seem to suggest that their former histories are still somewhat intact. After all, both are returning to their former roles when these series start.
Aquaman is cool. Again, a big part of Aquaman's initial arc was based upon the fact that he doesn't get any respect, something that was very true of the old DCU. Nothing that's been laid out so far couldn't have been worked into old continuity -- lord knows his origins has been reworked often enough.
Speaking of which, look at Superman. A new costume is easy to explain. A new history is just as easy. The dissolution of his marriage to Lois would be tricky, but there's already a pretty reasonable proposal for that story floating around, co-written by the guy who's currently writing Action.
There really isn't a single thing about the New 52 DCU that couldn't exist in the old one. In other words, we've gained far, far less than we've lost.
Look at it like this: A few weeks ago I read the pretty wonderful The Marvels Project by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting. About halfway through I realized that we will never get that kind of story set in the DCU. That's just sad.
If I look at whether or not the New 52 has been a success simply through my own experiences, then it's been a horrible failure. I bought every single one of those first issues. I don't buy any of them monthly anymore and I've just cut the string on buying any of them as trades (basically because of the Batman debacle).
No, strike that, the New 52 has been pretty good for me -- a lot of those first issues snagged me a nice profit on eBay.