I dropped Grifter.
Holding issue #4 of Grifter in my hands, I started to have doubts. Flipping through each page beautifully (and I mean beautifully) illustrated by CAFU, my heart slowly broke, like seeing your boss avoid you all day right before getting fired. The story wasn’t dragging me in or holding my interest. The $2.99 per issue price just wasn’t going to work out for a “wait and see” strategy. I was already $9 invested in the title, and we all know the comic companies love to issue trade paperbacks after a handful of newstand issues are in the can.
“I’m breaking up with Grifter.”
With my head hanging low, I pulled my coat closed in front of me and placed the issue carefully back on the shelf. Grifter, one of my favorite characters, was ruined by the New 52.
In DC’s relaunch/reboot of all its characters, Grifter was the one I was most worried about. This poor guy has been a member of the ill-fated Team 7 from Image Comics, the “origin” point for many of the Wildstorm Universe characters. Then his WildCats squad was tossed around the galaxy as well as the Image comics buyout by DC and rebooted so many times that the title began to use “2.0” and “3.0” in the actual cover title. Cole Cash (his real name for those who don’t follow embedded links) was getting flatter and flatter as a character, going from loner dual pistol wielding John-Woo-esque anti-hero to… a dude in a wheelchair.
DC’s reboot at least kept the black tee-shirt and the mask. But not much else.
In an attempt to make him “gritty”, Grifter was put on the run with some thin amnesia and a plotline of “is it alien abduction/invasion” that mixed together the worst parts of They Live and Mac and Me. I was embarrassed to be caught reading this crap. Dang it, I’m one of the last 3 people with all 3 Grifter action figures (well, the 2 and the PVC molded statue) and they didn’t care about ME.
DC dropped the ball.
(I’ll skip the hyperlinks in the next section, but google/wiki the titles for more info…)
I had already dropped BatWing, JLA, Stormwatch, I Vampire, and any Green Lantern or Legion of Superheoes titles from the New 52. All I had left was Batman, Detective, Batman & Robin… and the 3 titles of New 52 that I love, Batgirl, Animal Man, and Batwoman.
You’ve got to read these titles. Batgirl is the best take I’ve yet to read on the character. She’s the perfect mix of aspirational hero, coming of age young adult, and insecure abandoned child. New 52 claimed Barbara Gordon’s back was fixed by some gene-therapy/stem-cell/BS spinal fix, but that’s a detail worth tucking away. Being an 18-25 year old woman is hard enough, let alone the fear of her body giving out, the distance she is forced to keep from her father to hide her secret, and the uncontrolled distance between her and her estranged mother. Batman, the mentor, is also an incomplete father figure, and at the end of the day, Barbara can only trust herself, since no one can ever know “the real her”. Sound familiar to anyone who’s been through puberty? Batgirl is awesome. The art is great and yes, there’s tons of action. Her fight against the villain named Mirror was a brutal beating that she lost… at first.
Animal Man is hard to describe. I’m going to assign you some homework and tell you to find an issue from the new series online, check out the dark inky artwork, and tell me you’re not intrigued. Being a “less than cool” superhero is tough enough, but finding out that your daughter in the private sector is your superpower heir as well as part of a larger cosmic apocalypse involving the primal forces of nature can be… well… “daunting” is an understatement. I pray the SyFy network doesn’t make a bad TV series out of this, but it would fit well on a station where Warehouse 13 and Sharktopus go hand-in-hand.
Lesbians, ghosts, and death. You in? JH Williams takes your breath away with his art. Kate Kane is an artist’s dream, a woman who is part goth, part glamour, part soldier, part martial artist. Being able to portray so many types of body language in a single character leads to endless possibilities, and every issue has a couple new panels where I shake my head and say “why didn’t anyone draw THAT pose before?” The story is an intertwined cat-and-mouse where our heroine (who likes girls) deals with chasing a girlfriend, chasing a ghost, and chasing criminals while being chased herself by the government. I wish Grifter was able to pull off this kind of complexity while retaining the personality of a strong-willed superhero.
Sitting back and looking at my New 52 issues, I’ve got to pose the obvious question: was it a success for me, the long-term fan? Like most things in life, the answer is a shade of gray when we wish for black and white answers. I’ll always read Batman & Detective. I picked up some new titles that I love for characters I didn’t usually follow. I dropped some old friends. That’s life, though. We don’t always get what we want, but we still get something. Nothing’s perfect. But life goes on, and so does the New 52.
Looking forward to the next wave… cautiously.