The last eighteen months have seen quite a bit of rebooting, renumbering and relaunching of comics properties, and as with anything, not all relaunches are created equal. So, with the end of 2012 around the corner and a handful of major relaunches either already fully rolled out or at least far enough along that we can get a pretty coherent look at what they were shooting for, let's take a look at the reboots we've loved. DC Comics - The New 52 The reboot to end all reboots, DC Comics did what no publisher has done since...well, since DC did it with Crisis on Infinite Earths. The history of the entire DC Universe was reset and truncated, giving decades-old heroes, many with close to a century of backstory, a five-year history and not a lot of familiar events to cling to even in that. The good? It allowed DC to rebrand a number of their floundering or effectively dead properties, making Animal Man more adult, Swamp Thing more audience-friendly and giving Dial H for Hero a facelift. The bad? Scared of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, DC failed to reboot their most popular properties, leading to some Green Lantern and Batman stories which, to put it bluntly, don't make a lot of sense. And they're not the only ones, just the most obvious. A number of the changes made to "modernize" characters, especially costume changes for iconic DC heroes, weren't that well-received either.
Top Cow: Rebirth When the Top Cow Universe was effectively destroyed at the end of the first mega-arc of Artifacts, it ended up being rebuilt to suit the whim of Jackie Estacado. The good? The changes weren't as sweeping as DC's were, although longtime creative teams got swept off their books and either moved somewhere else or replaced entirely, and that coupled with the tweaks to the continuity and timeline gave everything a fresh feeling. The bad? The changes weren't as sweeping as DC's were--and being a smaller publisher operating in the shadow of the New 52, that was enough to really take some of the wind out of Top Cow's sales. It didn't affect the quality of the books, but it may have had an impact on the drawing power.
Extreme Comics Extreme's changes were, in most cases, even more...ahem...extreme than DC's were, leaving titles like Glory and Prophet looking virtually unrecognizable to the readers who may have read them years before. The quality, though, was undeniable with both of those title topping a lot of people's year's-best lists and a handful of other books being revitalized by it, too. The good? A handful of brilliant creators came aboard little-known properties and made them some of the best comics to come out in 2012, full stop. The bad? In many cases, these characters weren't well-known, leaving some of what they did to fall on deaf ears--and as with any big reboot, you can alienate away some of the old readers by doing anything as bold as what the Extreme crew did.
Valiant Entertainment Following years of litigation that left many fans wondering whether we'd see any of the Valiant characters again before they fell into the public domain, books like X-O Manowar, Archer & Armstrong and Bloodshot are back on the stands, with tweaks to their backstory and costumes and a really committed fan following. The good? Every book has been solid. Launching one book a month over the summer gave them the opportunity to properly staff, focus on and then promote each individual book, ensuring that Archer & Armstrong gets as much love as X-O Manowar did. As a result, I've read every book Valiant has released so far following their line-wide relaunch and there hasn't been a bad issue yet. The bad? If anything, it's that there's little or no input from the Valiant veterans, and given the years of legal battles between anyone who ever touched any of these characters, it's easy to interpret that as guys like David Lapham and Barry Windsor-Smith not getting treated right. Marvel NOW!
Marvel's wide-ranging relaunch isn't a reboot at all; rather, it picks up right where Avengers vs. X-Men left off, giving us a new status quo, new costumes, new creative teams and new #1 issues but keeping everything intact. The good? Some of the new creative teams have been positively inspired. Fraction and Allred on FF is just great fun so far, and moving Kelly Sue DeConnick to the tangential Avengers Assemble title has yielded great results. They were also smart enough not to relaunch and restaff great, new titles like Hawkeye, Daredevil and Captain Marvel. The bad? The Avengers. Other than Assemble, which hardly counts because it's not part of the big Avengers uber-story, the Avengers titles have been a real let-down, with Uncanny Avengers shipping two out of its first three issues late and tapping a new artist coming up soon while Avengers itself was pretentious and dull. All of this at a time when the movie has just made more money than any comic book adaptation in the history of cinema, so it seems very basic that those titles should be among Marvel's best. The caveat: We haven't even seen all of the #1s yet. Something new could absolutely explode and raise the bar, or equally one of the relaunch titles (I'm looking at YOU, Superior Spider-Man) could be a real dog and drag down the character and the publishing line.