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It was meant to be one of the selling points of the New 52. The continuity of the DC Universe was being revamped, and it would include the characters from the Wildstorm and Milestone universes. These characters would interact. They wouldn’t be strangers or newcomers. They will have always been around just like Batman and Aquaman.
Only, that wasn’t really what we got.
The New 52 did launch with a handful of titles featuring these imported characters. Static Shock, Grifter, Stormwatch, Voodoo. But these titles only felt marginally like parts of the DC Universe. They were very much playing in their own little sandboxes. Oh, Stormwatch did have Martian Manhunter as a member. Grifter did run into Green Arrow. And Voodoo did meet Kyle Rayner. But these factors came and went, leaving behind very little substance. Then, all these books took a turn for the worse and further harmed the case for Wildstorm and Milestone characters.
While DC has gone on to make several attempts for the Wildstorm characters, Static Shock seems to have been the one and only shot the Milestone cast got in the New 52. And what a misfire that was. I’ve said before that I understand wanting to preserve all the minutia of Virgial Hawkins continuity to honor the great Dwayne McDuffie. I understand, but I don’t agree. The decision was utterly counterproductive to integrating Static into the DC Universe, which you could see done correctly by watching Young Justice: Invasion. Worst of all, this was it for Milestone. I’m not aware of any other efforts to incorporate these characters into the New 52.
With the Dark titles featuring material like Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. and Justice League Dark, could DC really not find any role for Xombi? Or did DC simply not look? Nothing for Hardware? Icon and Rocket? Dharma? While I’m not a huge fan of these characters, it’s hard to believe that roles for them couldn’t have been easily found. It’s not as though they need to be starring in their own books to be a part of the DC Universe. Hell, going that route hasn’t done the Wildstorm guys any favors.
Wildstorm has gotten more of an effort from DC than Milestone did, but that is honestly not saying much. Grifter and Voodoo were rightfully cancelled, and Stormwatch is in the process of being desperately salvaged. None of them truly made an effort to be a part of the DC Universe, largely sticking to their own sandboxes and toys. Personally, I always believed it would have been better to use a revamp of the White Martians as Grifter and Voodoo’s adversaries rather than bringing in the Daemonites to be just another redundant evil alien species. And you would have thought Stormwatch’s alien-centric mandate would involve them far more with the likes of Superman and the Green Lantern Corps.
The only person at DC who appeared really interested in incorporated Wildstorm characters was Scott Lobdell with Caitlin Fairchild and other Gen13ers in Superboy. And well... let’s just say the quality of those stories were questionable.
With the Wildstorm imports in such decline, it seemed like DC was going to turn things around with Team 7. Here was a true attempt to integrate Wildstorm characters with the DC Universe. Team 7 had been a Wildstorm concept. It featured Wildstorm characters, but it also featured prominent DC characters like Black Canary and Deathstroke. It was hyped up as sort of the secret history of the New 52 and a response to the formation of the Justice League. Team 7 was a truly integrated Wildstorm book.
Unfortunately, it was poorly executed at almost every level by DC and promptly cancelled.
Why was Lobdell the only really trying to mix it up using both Wildstorm and DC characters early on? Justice League International easily could have used some Stormwatch characters. After all, Stormwatch was the same concept in its home universe. A team of international heroes. Plus, it’s not like the Stormwatch series at the time was using any Stormwatch characters. Flint couldn’t appear anywhere in Batwing’s tour of DC’s Africa, perhaps as a member of the Kingdom? Seriously, it’s not like the well was dry here for using Wildstorm characters in the mix anymore than it was for Milestone characters.
Look, I am neither a major Wildstorm or Milestone fan. I didn’t care when DC announced it was going to incorporate these characters into the New 52. Nor did I think it was really a good idea. But I tend to think that if you’re going to do something... do it. Otherwise, it was pointless to even bring it up. DC has teased at doing it but really has yet to make a concerted effort in this regard. Their efforts have now diminished to the point where they are just trying to put Stormwatch on life support.
DC Comics is at the point where the people there need to make a decision. Either they can kick over the sandbox and make these characters go play in the full playground as if they are now the DC characters they are supposed to be, or they can take those characters home. Launch books akin to Earth 2 with the Milestone and Wildstorm characters occupying their own Earths and see if that gets any traction. Because there’s no gain in the New 52’s half-hearted efforts thus far. It’s only burying these characters in poorly thought out and executed continuity as failed attempt follows failed attempt.