If you’ve noticed, DC is now calling themselves DC YOU, rhythmically very much like Marvel Now, but DC’s rebranding comes with a promise beyond happening in the present tense. A promise fans have been waiting for, for a while now – they want it to be about them. They want their characters to be treated by the DC staff with the same respect and the same love they’ve given as readers. Over the last few years, DC has gotten a lot of grief, some of it warranted (Gail Simone we’re on your side!), some of it knee-jerk (Ben Affleck, I’ve been on your side the whole time!), but unless there’s an outcry, the internet goes silent.
Well, I was curious, and like with M. Night Shyamalan, I’m always willing to forgive and give it another try, hoping the creator and audience can once again forge ahead with a positive, creative dialogue. The first thing that caught my attention was DC YOU’s line of $2.99 titles. Following in the footsteps of Image Comics and Ms. Marvel, lowering the price tag to me is a win. Both my pocket book and I have been growing weary of the randomly increased price tags (Marvel’s Secret Wars series and Scott Snyder’s Batman, you have both been heinous culprits here.), but at $2.99, it’s easier to convince yourself to take the plunge. I’m not reading every DC title, but the ones I am, I’m loving. Here’s how it breaks down:
My first was Midnighter. I love Midnighter. He has the ability to see all outcomes of a fight and pick the one in which he is victorious. Pretty slick power. He’s toxically violent, but still trying to find connection as a gay man. And, there’s no hiding it or talking around it. There’s no innuendo. He’s out. He’s dating. And, it’s an emotional ride of ups and downs. It’s surprisingly romantic, but also bittersweet. For a man who can see the end of a battle, he has a difficult time seeing even the next step of how a relationship can work. The book is fantastic. The creators mix the emotional rhythms of trying to find connection with the violent undertakings of a true-blue anti-hero.
Starfire. I’m not that much of a fan of Connor and Palmiotti’s take on Harley Quinn, but their compulsively cartoonish tone finds a place in my heart with the character of Starfire. A hilarious and charming, fish-out-of-water book in which a well-meaning and noble alien tries to fit into a small Oceanside community in the Americas. There are a lot of situational comedy moments in which cultural norms are confused or misunderstood, and while funny the book exists on the sharply written characters and the insightful look at our own humanity through these comedic moments, Starfire wins us over with her sincere dedication to doing the right thing and helping others, even though they may be different from her. And, while not “us,” Starfire represents the best of what we can be as humans which is a classic DC theme reaching back to the very beginnings of Superman.
Cyborg takes a well-known DC character who often graces the pages of some of the bigger books from Batman to Superman to Justice League and humanizes him to a degree I don’t believe he has been before. Cyborg takes a scalpel to the way much of the population perceives amputees and lets us know how we make them feel when we give them a sidelong glance. It’s troubling and heartbreaking. Cyborg, who feels more science experiment than son to his father, is the perfect vessel to explore these themes and this side of humanity.
Robin: Son of Batman allows Damian Wayne to go forth on his own after the (supposed) death of his father Batman/Bruce Wayne. But, he isn’t just keeping Gotham safe, he’s making amends for all the wrongs he’s done under the tutelage of the al Ghuls. A coming-of-age/redemption adventure story.
On paper, Scott Snyder’s current arc on Batman sounds abysmal. After Batman’s (supposed) death, Jim Gordon is brought on to be the new Batman, wearing a giant, mech-style suit to dispense Batman-style justice, only now within and a part of the legal system. But, what could be laughable, Snyder is using to explore not the character of Batman but the idea of Batman, which is what turns the man into a myth. Also, by dissecting it, he is exploring how anyone can be Batman, a theme he’s started to touch upon in previous Batman stories.
There are several more DC YOU books out there right now that I’m hearing excellent things about from trusted friends and from people who hated, nay loathed, the New 52.
Taking a grander look at this, DC YOU isn’t just a promise that they will be taking fans into consideration as they create, but that their creations will mirror the fans. These are stories about who we are and who we have the potential to be. It’s a welcome shift in the DC world, one that - thus far - is paying off, and to that I say, Bravo.