One Year Later: A Few Lingering Questions About The NEW 52
It’s now been one year since DC Comics announced The New 52 — the relaunch and realigning of their DC Universe continuity — and since that time fans have had a lot of questions about the nuts and bolts of the reality.
A new timeline was established that so far maintains the heroic age truly began about five years ago. The World War II heroes of the Justice Society have been removed from the mainstream reality again and inhabit Earth 2. Superman is no longer married to Lois Lane — in fact, he hasn’t even dated her yet. Barry Allen has never dated Iris West, and Batman had four (or five) apprentices in a span of five years.
While several story arcs seem to be progressing quite nicely, there are still new and lingering questions amongst fans. Some are curiosities about what is being set up to be told in the future. Some are genuine concerns and confusion about where continuity stands for some characters and events. Most of the universe was rebooted, but contradictions have been rising and it hasn’t helped that the Batman and Green Lantern histories are apparently largely unaffected by this universal restart.
SHOULD WE IGNORE PARTS OF BATMAN INC.?
We were told time and time again that the Bat-books are relatively untouched by the changing continuity of The New 52 DC Universe. The idea seemed to be that most of Batman’s adventures with the Justice League never happened and Tim Drake’s career as a member of Young Justice is non-existent, but they still had their own adventures in Gotham.
Batman Incorporated began before The New 52 relaunch, and theLeviathan Strikes one-shot is said to take place months before all the new issue #1′s, explaining why Dick Grayson has not yet returned to his Nightwing identity and why Barbara Gordon still requires a wheelchair. In fact, Barbara’s physical state means that parts of Batman Incorporated need to take place at least 6 months before Batgirl #1.
That’s all well and good, but readers are getting a bit confused when DC refuses to address the continuity/chronology of the many Robins in the new DCU and creators remark at San Diego Comic-Con that Stephanie was not a Robin, yet Batman, Incorporated clearly says that this part of her history remains true. And while we’re told in the pages of Justice League that the team has not had any new members in the five years since it formed, Leviathan Strikes includes remarks of Metamorpho’s “Justice League days.” Was he a member but only for a short time now? Was he just an associate or consultant on a few cases?
WHAT IS N.O.W.H.E.R.E.?
Seriously. What is it? For months now, this shady organization has been present in every issue of Superboy and Teen Titans. It’s a big deal in the new title Ravagers. And yet, nine months into The New 52, we don’t even know what the acronym stands for. On top of that, we don’t know what the group really wants.
N.O.W.H.E.R.E. has an interest in metahuman teenagers and has been forcing them into “survival of the fittest” scenarios. Why? To create some ultimate metahuman army to take over the world? If so, it seems like a waste to just kill the less powerful/formidable teens, surely they would be useful as cannon fodder if nothing else. How long has N.O.W.H.E.R.E. been around and what else is it up to? Is this a private organization or a government project that went rogue?
At SDCC last year, writer Scott Lobdell stated that Superboy was still the creation of Cadmus and that his pre-Young Justice adventures were still in continuity. Yet the new comics have shown this is clearly not the case and N.O.W.H.E.R.E. seems to be responsible for his birth. I say “seems” because in the first issue of Superboy, the N.O.W.H.E.R.E. doctors themselves seem unaware of Superboy’s exact origins and question it. Who’s running this group when they aren’t even sure what they’re working on?
And why would you give Superboy a costume with Superman’s symbol and then act surprised when he realized he must be connected to the famous alien superhero?
WHO KILLED ALEX DEWITT?
You know the phrase “women in refrigerators”? Well, Alex DeWitt was the woman who was literally found in the fridge. A love interest to the Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, she was a very strong, opinionated woman who was essential to helping the young man mature into a stronger hero. And then Major Force showed up and, seemingly for the pleasure of it, killed her and stuffed her in the fridge just to show Kyle that he meant business and was a dangerous person.
Alex’s death has been a major part of Kyle’s character ever since. Her ghost has haunted him (sometimes literally) and it’s not an event he’s ever gotten over. It also made Major Force his first archenemy.
But here’s the thing: Major Force was given powers because someone attempted to recreate the project that created Captain Atom. Essentially, he was the evil Captain Atom, with the same abilities. But in The New 52, Captain Atom has only been around for a few months. and there is no Major Force yet. So… who killed Alex years ago?
HOW LONG HAS BATMAN BEEN OPERATING?
The Justice League formed roughly five years ago and Superman made his debut just under six years ago (Action Comics #1 took place six months before Justice League #1, and said he’d been operating for a few months already). We’ve been told that Batman (and Hal Jordan) had been operating as heroes before Superman’s debut and that the world at large was simply unaware.
But just when did Batman begin? If we presume that Dick Grayson became the original Robin after Superman’s debut but before the formation of the Justice League, then Batman was probably operating for at least three or four years earlier (taking into account his solo adventures and the previous timeline). So let’s say Batman has been around for nine years. Well, his son Damian Wayne is 10. When exactly did Batman meet Ra’s al Ghul and Damian’s mother Talia in the new reality? Before he was ever Batman?
Another problem arises when you consider that Batman’s origin is still said to be Batman: Year One. But if that story features the birth of James Gordon Jr., then it must take place almost 20 years ago since James seems to currently be in his late teens, if not older. So has Batman been operating for 20 years now, meaning he was running around for at least 14 years before Superman and the first Robin showed up?
WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH THE GORDON FAMILY?
Previously, Barbara “Babs” Gordon was Jim Gordon’s niece (named after his wife, Barbara), whom he adopted when she was a young teenager, after her parents died. A later story implied that Jim Gordon may have even been her biological father. Later on, Mrs. Gordon left and took James Jr. with her. After a divorce, James reunited with his old partner Sarah Essen, who served in the GCPD and was even commissioner for a while. Jim and Sarah were married, but her life later came to a tragic end at the hands of the Joker.
In the new reality, however, Babs reveals to readers that Jim Gordon’s wife Barbara left on her own, leaving both kids behind. What’s more, Babs and Mrs. Gordon seem to be directly related, rather than an adopted parent. And Babs mentions that Jim Gordon “never” remarried. So what happened to Sarah Essen? Did she never reunite with Jim in the new reality? Did they reunite but never marry? And if Babs/Batgirl is the biological daughter of Jim Gordon and Barbara Gordon, then that brings us back to wondering about the timeline and continuity of Batman: Year One and who that baby is that is being born, and is said to be Jim’s first child.
WAS THERE ANOTHER TALKING GORILLA?
Sometimes, editors and writers appear to just miss something, or perhaps don’t double check with other books. It can lead to a few continuity gaffes. In The New 52, there are conflicting accounts on whether there was or was not a previous group of Teen Titans that existed before the current team. Exactly how much Batman is trusted by the government and law enforcement changes depending on whether you’re reading the Bat-titles, Justice League or Justice League International.
In Flash right now, title hero Barry Allen is meeting the villain Gorilla Grodd for the very first time. This is Grodd’s first encounter with a true human enemy and we can see in the story that Barry is startled to learn that there are gorillas that can talk. He makes it very clear he’s never encountered such a thing before.
Yet “five years ago,” in the pages of Justice League, Barry Allen and Hal Jordan speak very glibly and matter-of-factly about how they joined forces to stop a talking gorilla a while back. Did Barry forget this seemingly memorable case? Was that not Grodd but some other speaking gorilla such as Mallah, or Detective Chimp, or the Ultra-Humanite? All of that’s possible, but then why is Barry so shocked when he meets Grodd and finds Gorilla City? A simple remark could’ve explained this away, such as Barry saying, “Wow, I met one talking gorilla before, but a whole city? Weird.”
WHAT MAJOR EVENTS TRULY HAPPENED?
It’s been nearly a year and fans still aren’t clear on certain things. The Death of Superman seems like it couldn’t have happened now, but if it didn’t, then how did the cyborg Hank Henshaw come to destroy Coast City? Blackest Night is said to have still happened, but what about all those scenes with characters who no longer exist in the new reality and are now said to be inhabitants of the parallel world Earth 2?
Batman’s “death” and time-exile evidently still happened, and we assume Darkseid was still responsible. But that happened in the pages of Final Crisis. If that’s still true, the events of that story must have been very different since Billy Batson and the other Shazam-characters don’t have powers yet, and since a major part of that story revolved around Barry Allen coming back from the dead — which in the new reality definitely didn’t happen since recent issues of Flash make it clear that Barry has never traveled in time, or to other universes before.
Except that for time when he did in in Flashpoint. Wait, if Barry is aware that he somehow traveled to another timeline at the end of that story, why is he so surprised by time travel and the nature of the Speed Force in the pages of his own comic? Huh.