DC Comics is halfway into their massive relaunch, and as most everyone would have expected, reactions are mixed. Some, myself included, has seen this as an effort that has gotten off to a strong start and made the DCU a far more inviting an entertaining place to hang out, even though we’ve just barely gotten there and taken our coats off. Others, though, see this only at the latest muckup of the DCU, with some titles and concepts (Justice League, Superman) seemingly starting all over again while others (Green Lantern, Legion of Superheroes) are largely picking up where they left off.
A lot of readers are trying to reconcile things like how exactly Barbara Gordon’s shooting would have gone down in the new world of the Batman family. Or more generally, whether or not past events like the Death of Superman, Crisis on Infinite Earths, or Blackest Night are even part of the new history in the first place. And if certain past events did occur, how some characters could even be in their present situation.
Fans who have been around long enough to even raise such questions are understandably curious as to how the DCU they had gotten to know is supposed to dovetail with the one that they are now being forced to accept. But such questions, as valid and logical as they are, they are rooted in the very thing that necessitated the very relaunch we are now enjoying or criticizing: complicated and cumbersome continuity that hampered our very ability to enjoy new storylines. Because of things established in previous storylines, elements from newer ones, to ironically borrow DC’s old Elseworlds tagline, can’t, couldn’t, or shouldn’t exist, as far as many devoted readers were concerned.
There’s an even bigger irony behind all of these discussions, which you are all undoubtedly waiting giddily to hear, so I will tell you. That irony is, DC is the one kicking the continuity habit, or at least trying to. At the very least, they’ve entered the first step in a multi-step program. But we, as fans, are not; we still cling to all that came before, demanding perfect alignment with all that is coming now. When the very purpose of the relaunch was to create something accessible that would not require such intense debate to figure out.
There is no question whatsoever that the new continuity can’t withstand heavy scrutiny, especially when trying to match it up to the old one. It might be fun to peek behind the curtain, sure, but when you venture too far behind it, it’s easy to get lost. It’s like an abstract painting that looks great until you stare at it for too long. Or it’s like trying to stay friends with someone’s who’s trying to clean up their act while we just keep enjoying our vices.
Essentially, I think we’re missing the point. These new stories are meant to be enjoyed for what they are, not for what they followed up. Speaking for myself, I’ve been enjoying far more DC comics since the relaunch than in a long time. And this isn’t solely because they’ve lined up good talent for the most part; it’s also because these titles have not asked me to know a whole lot of this and that from the past.
It’s a hard habit to break. But I urge everyone to try. Unclench just a little bit, and you might find it easier to kick a habit that you might not even know you had.