For those unaware -- and weirdly reading this article anyway -- DC just celebrated the one year anniversary of its New 52 reboot with what has been called its Zero Month, a month of issues numbered with a 0 to signify flashbacks and origin stories. This wasn’t only a celebration, though. After a year in this new continuity, lots of questions were coming up. Holes and apparent contradictions in the DC Universe’s new five year history were becoming apparent. Besides a celebration, Zero Month was becoming a much needed thing to clarify the New 52.
Look, I know DC never established any specific goals for Zero Month. But come on, there were certain things it needed to do. There were certain things it should have done. So, what were these things and how did Zero Month do?
The elephant in the room of the New 52 has been the Batman franchise. Under the reasoning of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy, DC largely left it untouched by the continuity revamp and ended up breaking what wasn’t broken. At least three Robins have come and gone, and Batman’s 10 or 12 year old son is the current one. Batman was still benched at least twice -- once from being crippled by Bane and once from dying somehow in an event that no longer happened. Readers have grappled to understand how all of this is possible in the new five year timeline, and I think many have come to terms with its impossibility and just try to enjoy things as best they can.
The enormous Batman franchise got well over a dozen zero issues, and they all basically gave the elephant a wide berth. There really wasn’t a concerted attempt to make sense of the new condensed history. If anything, the zero issues brought further confusion. With time so limited, Nightwing’s zero issue has Dick Grayson’s Robin origin happen over the course of a few months. Birds of Prey had Barbara Gordon running around as Batgirl at a time when she definitely should have been in a wheelchair. And Talon gives us a new Talon who doesn’t really seem to fit into the history we were just given in Night of the Owls.
Some issues were quite good. Some were rather mixed. And a few were just bad. But overall, the zero issues for the Batman franchise didn’t do anything to clear up the confusion over Batman’s history in the new DC Universe.
To a lesser extent, the Green Lantern franchise has had the same problem. Its continuity was untouched as well, and the primary thing Zero Month accomplished was to add a fifth human Green Lantern in so many years. But really, what the Green Lantern franchise did was half ignore Zero Month. Green Lantern Corps gave us a decent revamp of Guy Gardner’s origin, wisely recasting him as a former cop. Red Lanterns gave us a fleshed out history for Atrocitus. But Green Lantern and Green Lantern: New Guardians? Those two books continued on like it was just issue thirteen for them.
One could argue that Geoff Johns had just retold Hal Jordan’s origin recently, and that is fair. But isn’t Sinestro supposed to be our official star now? A flashback to his early days or even his original fall from grace would have been interesting. Besides that, a flashback of a still living Abin Sur could have been nice and relevant as well. And despite DC rarely wanting to give him any spotlight, a retelling of John Stewart’s origin would have been appreciated. But what about Green Lantern: New Guardians? Of all the Green Lanterns, Kyle Rayner is in the most dire need of some clarification. The New 52 has rendered his history almost a blank slate. He couldn’t have ever joined the Titans or Justice League. There is no Major Force. Donna Troy, Jade and possibly even Soranik Natu no longer exist. He never could have been mentored by Alan Scott. It was a huge disservice for his book to pass up this opportunity. We could have waited another month for Carol Ferris to join the cast.
But you know what? Batman and Green Lantern will be fine. Someday, the mess that has been made of their histories might catch up to them, but it isn’t going to be a serious problem anytime soon. So really, the failure of Zero Month to clean it up at all isn’t going to cost DC anything in the short term.
What is going to cost DC is that they didn’t make Team 7 the star of Zero Month.
It seems obvious to me. The premise of Team 7 positions it as sort of a secret origin of the New 52. It takes place five years in the past, stars several recognizable names and ties into events happening in the modern day. If you’re going to launch a book like that during Zero Month, it really should be the flagship of it. Team 7 even ties directly into several other titles that were getting zero issues. That has the makings of a pretty damn good launching pad for a new series. All it takes is to get things coordinated and make it good.
Wow. Did Zero Month ever bomb with that.
To begin with, Team 7’s own zero issue was a letdown. It wasn’t a bad issue, but it needed to be a great one. Justin Jordan and Jesus Merino played it safe and stuck to the standard formula for a team book. It was tame and unremarkable. That’s not the way to kick off a new series.
Worsening this were all of the books connected to Team 7. Birds of Prey, Grifter, Suicide Squad and Deathstroke did no favors. If anything, they all worked against it. Birds of Prey and Suicide Squad both played it horribly vague when it came to Team 7, exposing that DC really has no plan in place for how it’s all going to work out. Meanwhile, Grifter and Deathstroke framed things in a way that made the characters’ histories with Team 7 fairly irrelevant to who they have become. DC probably couldn’t have done a worse job at coordinating the Team 7 launch.
Of course, Zero Month wasn’t all bad. But it succeeded at more minor things. Swamp Thing and Animal Man did a good job at embracing Zero Month while gearing things up for Rotworld. The Earth 2 world-building continued well with Earth 2 and Worlds’ Finest. All in all, nothing that really turned around anything that wasn’t already going well for the New 52.
The one job Zero Month undeniably did was in sales. Pretty much every book sold a bit better thanks to their zero issues, even the ones we have now heard are being cancelled in January. For some, that alone is good enough to declare mission accomplished on Zero Month. Sales bump achieved. The bare minimum of what could have been done has been done.
Zero Month could have put the New 52’s continuity on stronger footing. It could have given Team 7 a stronger launch. It really should have. Zero Month has come and gone, leaving no sense of impact on the New 52. The books that were already good have kept charging forward. The books that have been stumbling and falling are still faceplanting.
Much like the launch of the New 52, Zero Month could have been so much more if DC would have just taken the time to actually plan and coordinate it. So in that respect, it was the perfect way to celebrate the first anniversary and bring back the same old feelings from a year ago.