Comics: The Women of the New 52!

As I’ve made pretty clear by now, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of DC Comics’ company-wide reboot “The New 52.” When it launched a year ago, I thought many of the titles – including some of the most iconic characters in the world (Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, the Justice League, etc.) – were too often muddled, jumbled, and poorly thought-out.

I still think this is mostly true, although a year of work by some of the industry’s top talents has mollified me somewhat. The “New 52″ Batman, for instance, is fantastic, and I was grateful that my beloved Legion of Super-Heroes was largely spared any invidious changes (in fact, it was largely returned to a state of grace, a rare enough thing for that title in the last decade).

This month DC is releasing “Zero” issues of all its titles, designed to give readers a little background to all these new versions of old characters – something it very pointedly didn’t do a year ago, since at the time they really wanted readers to leap right into each title, rather than get bogged down in origin stories. Instead, we’re getting many of those origin stories this month (although told with plenty of leeway for future writers to elaborate), and many of them are, I must confess, nifty. But what struck me most in this week’s batch of comics (apart, that is, from the highlights pointed out on the new blog of Open Letters Contributing Editor Justin Hickey – it’s hands-down the best comics-writing happening on the Web, so if you haven’t checked it out yet, by all means do so)(I’ll be adding it to the blogroll here at Stevereads just as soon as I can recall the proper incantation to make that happen) is how it highlights one of the incontestable great things about “The New 52″: DC gave ongoing titles to virtually all of its best and most iconic female characters.

Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Batwoman … it’s a lineup strong enough to remind people that many of these characters have comics histories going back over 50 years. Seeing them all in stand-alone issues of lovingly-produced comics, after long decades of most of them being given at best guest-starring roles … well, it was a nice sight, long overdue. Granted, the sight is almost immediately undercut by the hit-or-miss quality of the contents (and the rampant sexism evident elsewhere in the reboot, of course), but still … a mighty nice ground-clearing for the future.

I might not agree with some of the editorial choices in “The New 52″ (“I, Vampire” instead of Adam Strange? “Red Hood and the Outlaws” instead of the Atom?) – and even this one is missing at least one 60-year-old pretty face (I refer, of course, to Mary Marvel) – but for all its problems, it’s a step in the right direction.

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