DC Comics 52 Pick-Up – Aftermath

Event fatality.

I read and reviewed more comics in September of 2011 than in any previous month. Let’s call it 52-and-change between the DC titles and a handful from Marvel and Image. That’s a sizable quota, and one I likely won’t approach again. If there’s some future epoch of similar magnitude lurking, I may well try and best that record. But that’s unlikely. Even if DC were to reverse this whole thing, the result wouldn’t come in a surge like this. You get one Deluge and one ark of so many cubits to weather it.

As a lapsed Catholic, I’m tempted to say the next one involves fire. But again, the lapsed bit.

Early on I wondered whether this experiment would end in total exhaustion or a greater enthusiasm for comics. Those first two weeks in September, I was hugely excited about the whole thing and briefly considered some way of prolonging the experiment so I might continue wringing more worth from my weekly comics haul. I typically read my books with some faith, but there is often that stack of books I’ve left unread. Or those books I peck out over days or even weeks until I’ve gotten my full. But in September, I read everything. All of it. I picked the bones clean. Here in October I could make a xylophone of those bones.

I found 52 new beginnings and the promise of several stories I’d want to see through to some conclusion. I also found dull or flawed beginnings which left me thinking and evaluating what I found most vital in the telling of stories. In reviewing them, even in small bursts, I forced myself to learn new ways of saying “good” or “this doesn’t work.” Most importantly, I never said “meh.” I think that’s about the worst thing any reviewer of substance could do. I panned some books, and there are some I know that made me mean. But I hope you always knew why and I hope no offense was taken, because it certainly wasn’t meant. I learned in some way about the elements that mattered more to other readers, and even in the books I disliked, that level of attention from others with a different circumstance added value to my experience.

I wish I could offer any definitive insights about the relaunch overall, pertaining especially to magical formulae. Among the books that employed first person narration, there are good (Animal Man, Batman, Supergirl) and bad (Batman: The Dark Knight, The Savage Hawkman, Detective Comics) as well as so many in between. Among those that didn’t include an internal monologue, again there are instances of greatness (Aquaman, Batwoman) and otherwise (Hawk & Dove). Choosing to push for a hard reset sometimes worked (Action Comics. Superboy) but just as often didn’t (Blue Beetle). Some books were murky with past continuity (Batgirl, Green Lantern: The New Guardians) while others benefit from the right dose of past history (Swamp Thing, Batman & Robin). Still others truly needed the course correction the reboot permitted (Green Lantern). I don’t know that there are any hard or fast rules at play here. Good writing is good writing and bad is bad, and a time-honored storytelling device is as good as a great lens. It all depends on who’s holding the camera and what experience and craft they bring to it. I can make no sweeping gestures about these 52 titles other than that. There is a great book in this bunch about a man who takes on the powers of animals and a bad book about villains compelled by a secret agency to take on dangerous missions. All’s subject, but conceptually, the first sounds laughable and the second pretty fascinating. But concept means nothing if the write storytellers aren’t in place. I’m admittedly underselling Animal Man as a concept here, especially given the pedigree. But if you go back to the roots of the thing, that’s the raw ingredient a greater modeled into something profound.

Though I grew frustrated with 52 Pick-Up in the final weeks, that was only due to the sheer volume involved. Even 52 stellar books would be taxing on a reviewer’s patience, and there are a number of reasons to be thrilled they’re not all wonderful starts, or at least books that sing to me. For one, it’s difficult to compose 13 glowing reviews in a night. More importantly, I can’t afford to stick with anywhere close to 52 books on a monthly basis. It’s actually overwhelming that the #2 issues are already here. The cycle continues. Luckily, I’m only committing to less than half of the 52, with books like Batman, Animal Man, Action Comics, Birds of Prey, Demon Knights, Swamp Thing, Wonder Woman and Supergirl as most anticipated. I’m glad I won’t be reviewing them all this month, though if any offer new surprises I might single them out.

Here in October, I’m relieved the project’s done. I’m a little drained, but I’m also hopeful. Births are magical though there is a lot of screaming. Maybe this is the better part. The baby steps.

If you’d like to relive this whole thing on your iPod, you’ll find roundtable discussions below featuring the likes of Timmy Wood, Cameron Rice, Ali Colluccio and Doug Hills. I am very grateful to all of my guests and my stalwart companion Dave Accampo for joining me on this journey.



  1. I wanted this ride to stop and let me off after doing about 30% of what you did. My hat and part of my head are off to you.

  2. I am super glad…

    1. That I did not have to read all 52 of these damn things.

    2. That Paul was man enough to step up and do it for me.

    Thanks a ton, Paul. Now take a nap!

  3. Paul-

    I feel your pain man; I bought and read all 52 issues and you are right towards the end was rough however; there were some good issues there as well. Writing all of those reviews I would have loved to try but realisticly I would never have made it. You did it and congrats to you that is a large achievement and you did it well. This month I am down to 47 out of the NEW 52! I have tried to be open to a lot of these characters being a “reboot” and all however; there are some tat just did not make the cut ie… Bat-Wing (although the art was good and then ending was a shocker it just did not strike me as a real character that I would follow; not to mention there are a lot of Bat books out there), Static Shock (maybe the only kiddie book out there the way I was feeling it and it was just really boring), Frankenstein (childhood favorite monster character just was not entertaining enough to keep me around), Blue Beetle (bring back Ted Kord the kid just is not doing it; they tried before the reboot to do something it was bad and this first book is probably the worst out of all of them; just crap), and then I always forget this one for some reason Omac (this is actually worse than Blue Beetle, just was a big ball of nonsense, nothing going on here but confusion and the only reason I give it props is for Jack thats it and that is still not a good enough reason to buy this junk). I am a sucker when it comes to comics so a may buy one of these of the bad list if am really bored and have nothing better in my life to do….LOL
    Again Paul thanks for the help along the way and your time, great job!

    Just Sayin’,


  4. i didn’t read as many of the 52 as you obviously did…i think maybe half, but i found myself to be exhausted and overwhelmed especially combined with the non DC stuff that i was already getting.

    The cutbacks are starting…..so my comics reading can be manageable and stay fun.

    • Hell yeah thats where I am trying to get as soon as possible but; I got myself mixed up in this and now I have to weed my way out of it. Comics are way to expensive now a days and that does not help us at all.

      Just sayin’,


  5. It’s been a pleasure listening to the podcasts, man.

  6. Thank you for doing this for us. You did an excellent job. I hope you enjoy the #2’s you stick with.

  7. 16 of 52 for me. For those playing at home, that’s only 30.7% Which isn’t bad since I am a brand new DC reader. I’ve always leaned on Marvel…..

    I had no desire to try even half. I just picked the books I was interested in learning about based on past podcasts. In the end, I went with books with strong creators (Action, Batman, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Flash, Aquaman). Several books instinctively knew to stay away from and one that slipped past my spidey sense and shamed me, looking at you Supes #1 or dealt with a past I barely know (Batgirl) but have heard others tell of. At the end of the month, me, a new DC reader, was excited about having 16 new titles of characters I have no history with, no knowledge of, and no continuity baggage. If the stories are retells of past stories…well, to me they are brand new stories.

  8. A great look back, Paul. I think one of the things that I came away with was: if you followed the CREATORS you liked, there were very few disappointments. My pull list AFTER reading everything is fairly close to what I would’ve predicted I’d pick up: Jeff Lemire, Scott Snyder, Peter Milligan, Paul Cornell, JH Williams, Grant Morrison, etc. The good part of that is that with each of those creators, it really feels as though they’ve got a lot of leeway to navigate a course THEY wish to take.

    That said, there were a few good surprises for me that came from untested writers or writers I had either grown tired of or never really liked: Supergirl, Superboy, The Flash, Grifter, Green Lantern (a book that feels refocused).

    Most of disappoints came from characters I felt had potential but were saddled with writers I already knew I didn’t really like. So that was pretty much expected.

    Still, it was a fun, exhausting experiment. And my “keeps” are also a little less than half, which is still a BIG part of my monthly haul — and much more than I was getting from DC (proper) before.

  9. good job

  10. Thanks for everything Paul. The written reviews and the podcasts (thanks to Dave, Jack and guests also) were terrific. You and iFanboy helped turn this into an even bigger event by providing so much coverage.
    I ended up reading 51 of the relaunch issues (and the first 10 pages of Supes #1 which just became unreadable at that point). The most fascinating aspect was seeing how so many people responded differently to the issues. There were some I liked that you did not, there was one I hated that has a average iFanboy rating of 3.1, which baffles me beyond belief. But fascinating none the less.

    Great stuff, and now that it’s over I hope you’ll be back with The Deceptionists soon.

  11. It was pretty exhausting but it was also pretty fun. There were only 7 that I didn’t read. What’s more of a problem is that I’m still unclear on some of the books. I’m picking up a few #2 issues just to give them another chance (Animal Man, Blackhawks, JLI, Men of War, etc) but my wallet just can’t handle it. Gotta tighten up my pull list.

  12. I also did all 52, and for me I didn’t start to get exhausted until about halfway through last week (and now, it wasn’t Superman that did me in…I actually appreciated the storytelling in that one).

    One day, I’m sure they’ll build monuments to the veterans of The New 52, and I’m glad I got to experience it in the trenches.

    As it stands right now, I’m down from 13 a week to about 8 or 9 going into October. I think the experience is going to be even more fun this week, as a lot of the chaff got separated from the wheat after the first issues.

  13. Thanks for muddling through this with your usual level-headed eloquence, P-Mont.

    You are a doe-eyed, bearded saint.

  14. I wish I had saved up some cash so I could have played along, but reading your reviews and listening to the podcasts has been a lot of fun. I think you deserve a break.

  15. Someone please give this man a medal.

  16. Whats with the tat on your hand? WHat does it mean?

  17. Nice work, Paul. I really enjoyed the articles and podcasts!

    As for me, I bought 19 of the new 52. For the number twos, 8 were good enough to become automatic pulls, I’m sticking with 5 more on a month-to-month basis, 3 will be game time decisions, and only 3 books (Grifter, Blackhawks, and Men of War) failed to connect enough for me to try issue two.

    Maybe the revisitation can come when the books (at least some of them) hit issue 52? That’ll be what?…December 2015? Hell, you’ll probably be WRITING one of these books by then.

  18. I greatly appreciated the podcast, it gave me a great listen every week. I think if the experiment didn’t exist I wouldn’t have picked up as many books. And I don’t just mean week two just because I was on that episode, but from week 1 to 4 I picked up more then I planned just because I wanted to know what you and Dave would be covering. Also having Jack on the show was great. There’s a part of me that will miss the weekly nature of FT, but what was done with great.

  19. Man up 😉