There are stories known to everyone, yet it’s possible to tell them afresh. These are a bit like remixes (which I don’t particularly like because of the obvious bastardization they involve) and a lot more like cover versions, which usually involve reinterpretation. When I was younger I used to enjoy listening to Bill Withers every now and then. One of the two songs he is known for is Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone, popularized in its original form in the vacuous but enjoyable Notting Hill and in remixed rap form in some Steven Seagal B-movie. I recently listened to Umphrey’s McGee and John Oates (from Hall and Oates) covering this song and couldn’t help but think (with due apologies to Withers) that it was so much better than the original.
Which brings us to the fate of the famed DC reboot. It’s been a few weeks now, so how has the attempt to do cover versions of comic book heroes everyone knows gone?
Like with all hugely ambitious exercises, the reboot (or The New 52 as DC calls its effort) seems to have worked in parts. And it doesn’t seem to have worked in others.
Makeover: The new avatars of DC heroes.
Unfortunately, my day job has prevented me from following all 52 threads (DC may not even have finished releasing Issue 1 of all) but I have been following a few that I usually read on the same day the comics are released, thanks to the comiXology app.
The first admission I have to make is that The New 52 has rekindled my interest in Superman, just as I am sure it has in several other readers. Now, this is no small achievement. Superman’s story is, arguably, among the best known in comics and retelling it is no easy task. Fortunately, the retelling this time is done by one of the finest writers in the comics universe, Grant Morrison. Rather than tweak the story, he has (from what I can make out from the first two issues) decided to tell it afresh, starting somewhere in the middle rather than the beginning or the end. And, at least so far, the new Superman has avoided characterizing uber-villain Lex Luthor as a caricature of deranged bad men through the ages.
The writing is equally good in the new Batman, Detective Comics and Swamp Thing. Scott Snyder authors both Batman and Swamp Thing and while his take on Batman is not as unique or striking as Jeph Loeb’s, Frank Miller’s, Brian Azzarello’s and Paul Pope’s, it is still a competent depiction of the caped crusader. His Swamp Thing is a different story altogether. Maybe because there have been fewer retellings of this tale, Snyder has been able to create an entirely new story that somehow manages to evoke the spirit of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing.
I have been following a few more threads, including Animal Man and Justice League of America, but thus far, there’s nothing unique or even vaguely gripping about these. Still, thanks to the app and the writing of Morrison and Snyder, there is something to look forward to every few weeks. And who knows, maybe the other threads will start looking up as well.
R. Sukumar is editor, Mint. Write to him at email@example.com