Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Various Writers & Artists: Action Comics

Infinite Crisis is DC Comics' first major "everything will change" crossover event in years, and though post-Crisis On Infinite Earths shakeups from The Final Night to Zero Hour have routinely ended in unreadable books and mangled continuity, this new one promised to be as genuinely deck-clearing as the original Crisis. Coming on the heels of the Brad Meltzer-penned superhero mystery Identity Crisis—which set a new standard for icons behaving badly—and the excessively grim Countdown To Infinite Crisis miniseries, Infinite Crisis had a chance to revamp the philosophical underpinnings of the DC Universe, replacing the dark, conflicted heroes that Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman had become with the sunnier versions from decades past. But the as-yet-incomplete series has taken a different turn, and now seems to be about why DC can't go back to what it was. Meanwhile, DC is rolling out its "One Year Later" concept, resetting 20-odd titles to a year after the conclusion of Infinite Crisis, and confirming that nothing significant will change.


Leaving aside the ethics of stringing along superhero-comics fans with one event after another—including the soon-to-debut weekly series 52, which will fill in the gaps between Infinite Crisis and "One Year Later"—what's most galling is that the latest set of remodels leaves the DC Universe even messier than it was one year ago. There are duplicate Nightwings on the streets, Hawkman has been retitled Hawkgirl, Catwoman has had a baby (and trained a replacement Catwoman), Black Canary has left the Birds Of Prey (and been replaced by a former villain), Supergirl has joined The Legion Of Super-Heroes, Green Arrow is the mayor of his city, and super-teams from The Teen Titans to The Outsiders have been restaffed. And since nearly every "One Year Later" issue ends on a cliffhanger, the stories are bound to get even more complicated. So much for bringing in new readers.

The news isn't all dreary. While the retooled Batman comics (penned by the usually reliable James Robinson) have been flatly dull, the new take on Superman (co-scripted by Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns) is highly entertaining so far, with unexpected twists. Busiek's new version of Aquaman also has potential, though the first issue is a little confusing, and both Catwoman and the New Orleans-set Hawkgirl (the latter co-created by veterans Walt Simonson and Howard Chaykin) have made refreshing new starts. But all these new heroes and concepts are clearly meant to parallel Julius Schwartz's late-'50s Silver Age recreations of The Flash, Green Lantern, et. al., and these "One Year Later" books simply aren't that radical. They have more in common with the bad old days of the late-'80s/early-'90s speculator boom, when everything was touted as an epochal event and characters were killed off willy-nilly, to be replaced by grimmer versions. The faces and the costumes may change, but the guiding principle still seems to be finding ways to separate comics fans from their money.

A.V. Club Ratings:
Action Comics, B+;
Aquaman: Sword Of Atlantis, B;
Batman, C-;
Birds Of Prey, C+;
Blood Of The Demon, D;
Catwoman, B+;
Detective Comics, D+;
Firestorm: The Nuclear Man, D;
Green Arrow, D+;
Green Lantern, A-;
Hawkgirl, B;
JSA, C-;
JSA Classified, B-;
Nightwing, C;
Outsiders, D;
Robin, B-;
Superman, A-