Is DC Comics Running Away From Their Own New 52 Philosophy?

Since the DC Universe was relaunched a little over a year ago following the events of Flashpoint, [...]

Since the DC Universe was relaunched a little over a year ago following the events of Flashpoint, there have been groups of fans who have had largely the same complaints more or less nonstop. Batgirls Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain are gone--and not just absent, but apparently written completely and expressly out of the timeline in spite of the fact that Batman was never properly rebooted and so it doesn't particularly make any sense for them to have done so. Wally West and Donna Troy, former sidekicks who stepped up to shape their own heroic legacies following Crisis on Infinite Earths, are similarly missing from the universe, and repeated inquiries at comic book conventions and online have yielded increasingly adamant claims by DC editors that those characters and others like them--not least of all former Blue Beetle Ted Kord--weren't going to return anytime soon and that their supporters should just calm down and wait for them to appear in the course of the storytelling.

In the last forty-eight hours, though, a pair of posts at DC's blog, The Source, have boasted the returns of Kord and Daniel West--apparently some relation to Wally, although it's unclear what. In the previous continuity, Wally's father's name was Rudy, and Rudy was the brother to Iris West, who would later marry The Flash (Barry Allen). What could this new West be doing? While he was anything but one of the good guys in The Flash #0 this month, words shared with DC's blog seem to set the character up to be a hero in the next arc. "Daniel West is a classic case of juvenile delinquency," series co-writer and artist Francis Manapul said. "Unfortunately for him, his first major crime is foiled by Flash's first ever outing as a superhero. In the present, after having served his debt to society, Daniel just wants his old life back. All he wants is to go back home. But what he finds is a city over run by apes, and a sister that's nowhere to be found. Welcome home indeed. He'll be setting forth to find his lost sister amidst the disastrous events of Gorilla Warfare!"

This, along with their brief decision to return Stephanie Brown to action (something that editors later lamented should never have been announced, even though it was given to TV Guide along with official, exclusive art and was therefore pretty obviously an official announcement), seems to suggest that even while they're saying "We can't introduce everybody all at once and fans should just be patient," DC seems to be moving in the direction of accelerating the storytelling to meet demand for some of their most notably-absent characters. It's not surprising, and while certainly there's an appeal to having your favorite character appear in the "real" DCU, there's really not a particularly compelling reason that some of these characters can't be seen, at least briefly, in other worlds (as has Ted Kord). The rebooted DC Universe, of course, is actually a  multiverse, and there are at least two worlds from which we're currently seeing stories being drawn. Expect at least one more to be introduced in Action Comics before Grant Morrison leaves, as it seems pretty clear that the dimension-hopping Mr. Mxyzptlk, a villain who might have some access to quite a lot of cosmic knowledge, will be one of the characters who makes an appearance.

With The Question appearing in both Justice League and Multiversity, though, one has to wonder whether Justice League writer Geoff Johns might have some designs on the Multiverse himself, especially given that Booster Gold saw an alternate-reality or future version of himself in the recent, Johns-penned Justice League International Annual #1. If that's the same Question, as opposed to two worlds' versions of a similar character like the Blue Beetle we see in Multiversity, it could raise some eyebrows--and some serious questions (no pun intended). If it's a different Question, it might raise some other concerns--for example, if there is more than one Question in the DC Multiverse, does that suggest there could be more than one Pandora? It seems a slippery slope. While characters on a more human or even superhuman scale have often seen alternate versions of themselves in various different universes, certain classes of characters have traditionally seemed to be insulated from it. The Phantom Stranger from Kingdom Come is the same one from The Kingdom, a character who existed in the then-current DC Universe.  He was aware of a multiverse when no one else was (in the form of "Hypertime"), and the revelation of that information to Rip Hunter seems to have set the stage in some ways for everything he did after, from Justice Society of America to Booster Gold. Rip, Booster and other time-traveling heroes are one of the classes that seems to have been protected, along with characters of massive, cosmic power and influence, such as the Phantom Stranger and The Spectre. It's difficult to argue that Pandora doesn't belong in that category as well, and even The Question (while we've never seen hard evidence of it yet) seems to be on the same level as Pandora and the Stranger.