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September 25. 2012 11:59AM

Pop Culture Club: On 1st birthday, New 52 is star of the party

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, New 52. DC Comics' radical shuf.e of its comic book lines (dubbed the New 52 because 52 books started fresh with No. 1 issues) turns a year old this month, and DC is celebrating with special 'zero' issues replacing the regular books this month.

''The zero issues are designed to .ll in some of the questions that readers had after DC realigned their universe last year,'' said Chris Proulx, co-owner of Double Midnight Comics and Collectibles in Manchester. ''New story lines and characters will also be introduced that will set things up for the second year of the New 52.'' The New 52 was supposed to come with characters who had no baggage or back story, allowing new readers to jump on without fear of being lost in a story that might have years of continuity behind it.

And while many of the books did offer completely clean slates, some still came with history that wasn�t entirely clear. Thus, the zero-numbered issues this month will provide the missing pieces and also allow another jumping-on point for new readers.

One year in, let's take a look at the hits and misses of the DC New 52 and maybe point you in the right direction if you want to take that leap into comics for the .rst time or for the .rst time in years.

Among the biggest hits of the new take on the heroes was the revamp of Aquaman. Often the butt of jokes for seemşingly being a useless character, Aquaman had public relations problems that were confronted head-on by writer Geoff Johns in the .rst pages of issue No. 1 last year.

Well-known for revitalizing characters, Johns has infused Aquaman with some real life and has turned in what have become some of the best reads every month. The hero doesn't just talk to .sh anymore (as in the old 'Superfriends' cartoon). Check out 'The Trench' (the collected trade paperback of the .rst story line from last year) or Issue Zero and see what Johns has created. It's worth a read.

Others that were destined to do well and delivered include the Batman books, although I .nd there are too many of them. Batman and Detective Comics are both quite good, however.

Batman: Dark Knight has been hit or miss, and I don't care much for Batman and Robin, mostly because the new Robin (Damian Wayne) doesn't appeal to me. Other books in the Bat family are also solid but not home runs, including Batgirl and Nightwing.

Justice League is also strong, and several horrortinged books have been hits, including Animal Man and I, Vampire.

My favorite book remains Suicide Squad, where villains are the main characters. Each month brings a new covert mission sanctioned by the government (which offers commuted sentences for the bad guys). Double-crosses and main character deaths spice up things and make it a great read.

It hasn't all been sunshine for DC in the New 52, as several titles were canceled (and replaced by news ones) and some creative teams had to be sacked to try to salvage titles that were deemed too important to cancel (such as Green Arrow).

But overall, DC Comics' bold plan to breathe new life into its world has to be considered a big success. It removed or cleaned up years of (often confusing) history and offered new fans a chance to ease in while giving longtime fans something familiar yet fresh.

So if you're interested in a good introduction to the New 52, this month's zero issues offer a great chance to see what it's all about. This past Wednesday's offerings included Action Comics (starring Superman), Detective Comics and Green Lantern..

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Ian Clark's Pop Culture Club appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. He is the author of two fantasy novels: 'Prophecy of Shadows' and 'Plains of the Past.' Check out his 'Nerdherders' podcast on iTunes and nerdherderspodcast. com. His email address is iclark@unionleader.com.


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