Chat Cave: Zero Month Reflection

The Retcon Punch editors want to extend a HUGE thank-you to everyone that helped cover all 55 Zero Issues released in the month of September. And an additional thank you to the new readers that have been enriching the conversations in our comment sections. We couldn’t have done it with out you – and really, without you, what would be the point?

In that spirit, let’s all reflect on Zero Month. What were some of your favorite Zero Issues? What were your least favorite? Did any of these issues serve as an effective entry-point for you? What trends did you notice? Are these kinds of line-wide events fun, or a pain in the ass? Welcome to the Chat Cave.

61 comments on “Chat Cave: Zero Month Reflection

  1. I really loved digging into Flash 0 and Green Lantern 0. They both told me what the goal of the New 52 really was setting out to do. We were given an entirely NEW character in Simon Baz and a fantastic reinterpretation of Barry Allen’s past.
    Aquaman was a STELLAR jumping on point. It reiterated just enough of the info divulged earlier in the series to help the zero flow seamlessly.
    Batman 0 felt a little incomplete, but I still really enjoyed it for the great representations of each and every Robin. Eh, screw it most of the Batfamily zeroes did not disappoint. I didn’t really jive to Detective and haven’t read Dark Knight so there were a few misses. There are a ton of zeroes I’m obviously forgetting, but forgetting them doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy them. I read nearly 40 of them so I may be getting a little “zeroed out”

    Large misses? Catwoman, Deathstroke, Firestorm, Green Arrow. I really wanted to like Green Arrow too. Dang it. All of these mucked with the characters with HUGE steps backwards then kept walking in confusing circles.

  2. For me, I think the most effective zeroes were the ones that were able to tie the origin that everyone knows to the current arc; Animal Man might be the best example of that, considering his origin is one of the more dated. No one does aliens anymore. Well, little-green-men-aliens, anyway.

    • You can really extend this idea to just anything that presented new information. Animal Man had to reconcile some strikingly opposing origin stories and did so charmingly. And like Green Lantern gave up a whole ton of new information on Baz. It helps to LEARN something.

  3. “What were your favorites?” is a question I’ve gotten A LOT when I tell people we’ve been covering all of zero month, but I’ve honestly read so many comics this month, it’s difficult to keep them straight. I’d say my favorites have to be Batwoman and Wonder Woman, but it’s really hard for me to typify trends.

    Some issues took us back to the origin of the character (or team, as the case may be), while others simply took us to the heroe’s early days, or didn’t bother going into the past at all, but I don’t think any one strategy was more effective than any other. Batwoman largely rehashes an origin story we already know, but casts it in the light of a single relationship, which I was really moved by. Wonder Woman isn’t exactly an origin story, but again focuses on how a single relationship has affected its central character.

    Actually, maybe there is a trend after all: the most successful zero issues found a meaningful character reason to explore the hero’s past. Conversely, the least successful issues showed us where the hero came from because they had to. Origin stories can be fun, but retelling them for the sake of retelling them is totally gratuitous. Not to rag on Liefeld, but the fact that the Deathstroke origin “borrowed” the Perez/Wolfman origin really was a missed opportunity. Teen Titans 43 already exists — a panel-by-panel recreation accomplishes nothing other than belying a total contempt for the assignment.

  4. I buy too many comics as it is, so it’s not going to be much of an entry point for new comics for me. As mentioned yesterday, you guys may have convinced me to try Superman, but with Detective (writer change) and Flash (cool story from Annual) looking good to me, I don’t have much room for new books.

    The zero month heightened my excitement for Animal Man and Swamp Thing – these have been slow burning stories and the extra month off plus very good zero issues have me ready for the big event. I liked both Demon Knights and Stormwatch, and Etrigan showing up this week in Stormwatch could be pretty cool. I really liked All-Star Western’s zero; I found it a big, meaty story that made me like Jonah Hex even more. Now we need an Arkham origin!

    I found the Batman zeroes to be unnecessary.

    Captain Atom and Rez Man’s zeroes were strange in that they were endings/origins. I don’t think either was great, but they were adequate conclusions.

    Aquaman’s and Wonder Woman’s got me to drop their books. I liked the idea of both comics for a few months but they slowly wore me out and I just have lost interest. Neither of the zero issues sparked anything, so they’re both being dropped.

    I’m going to try to get down to 10-15 DC books (and 10-15 Marvel, and then 5-10 small publisher) by winter. The zero month helped me decide a little bit on what to keep and what to drop.

    Oh, and the zero covers ranged from barely tolerable to awful. What an atrocious idea.

    • One thing covering EVERYTHING has really impressed on me is that there’s no such thing as critical consensus – especially when it comes to comics. We all bring a lot of baggage to stuff and have our own tastes. So while most of the staff here loved Wonder Woman, there are totally reasonable (and very smart and articulate) people – like you Kaif, that hated it. Similarly, there were a lot of things that I panned as impenetrable and dumb (like Legion of Superheroes), that were defended by our readers (again, smart, articulate people). I know “tastes vary from person to person” shouldn’t be revelatory, but it does imprint on me how important it is to talk about the substance of comics, versus the perceived quality.

      • Can I just say how much I love our readers? No where else on the internet can people respectfully discuss what they liked and didn’t like about whatever form of media without it dissolving into a hateful troll-fest.

        Basically, thanks for not being total dicks, everyone.

    • Detective and Superman are still question marks for me, but I strongly recommend Flash. It’s been consistently strong throughout its run, and I have absolute faith in that creative team to keep turning out great issues. I’m excited to see if Detective and Superman work out with their new writers, but if you’re trying to keep your pull list short, I might wait on those. We’ll be covering both of those, and can give you an idea if they’ll be worth picking up at all (can you tell I haven’t read this week’s Detective yet?).

      • Detective will do fine so long as Layman realizes “organized crime organization” is a redundancy that should not be uttered by a tactical genius

  5. Did anyone have any pleasant surprises? For all my hopes of finding something new, I think this experiment mostly confirmed that I wasn’t really missing anything. Frankenstein came the closest to making me want to pick up a new title, but I was also planning on reading 13-15 for Rotworld. Am I forgetting any unsung gems?

      • Yeah, I was pretty happy with the new series, too, but since those are effectively their first issues (which we would have read, anyway), they don’t really count. This would have been a great opportunity for DC to get me hooked on more titles, but it really didn’t work at all. I suppose if someone wasn’t reading Batwoman, it may have convinced them to pick it up, but I wasn’t impressed by anything we weren’t already reading.

        STRAY THOUGHT: Do we think the #1 issues of the new titles will effectively be #2s, or will they introduce the characters as we would expect a #1 to do?

        • I expect Talon 1 to be more like a traditional #1, just because the “present day” stuff in that issue still took place 5 years ago. But SoS, Team 7 and Stranger were all pretty issue one-y.

      • I tried about 18 times to pick up Sword of Sorcery at the store and every time I did, i opened it and was overwhelmed by the purply-pinkishness of the whole thing and couldn’t get the taste of cotton candy out of my mouth until I set it down.

        I really wanted to try it. Could not get past the coloring.

        • It’s worth a read. Even if you ultimately can’t get over the candy-colored fantasy of it, the Beowulf backup is really nice.

        • Agreed–the Amethyst story was decent enough to me that I am interested to give it a chance and see where it goes. The Beowulf story was intriguing and I really want to see what is up with that one.

        • I can’t buy something for the backup. They bother me literally 97 times out of 100 (the new Detective backup is the opposite of this). I really found it visually grating, so I’m going to pass. Especially for $3.99. I really think a new comic with a limited audience should be a $2.99 book. Hell, until 12 months ago I had no idea they could even charge $2.99 for a comic. $3.99 is the breaking point.

        • Good point–I have to admit I have dropped most of the $3.99 titles I started with (from Marvel and DC) and have been hesitant to pick up new titles at this price point. Batman is I think the only $3.99 title that I haven’t questioned buying at some point (though I was a bit bummed when they upped the price–I would rather have the $2,99 version without the backup).

        • We did a chat cave about back-up stories shortly after we started this site (and therefore, shortly after we all started picking up monthlies). I think we landed on “it sorta sucks, but what-are-you-gonna-do?” I don’t know that 4 dollars is any more of an investment than 3 (other than the mathematically true “1 dollar more of an investment,” but like, it’s the difference between getting a large coffee and getting a medium.

          I like it when a backup is just used as like 8 more pages of the main story – that shit I’d HAPPILY pay 4 bucks for.

  6. Zach mentions being “zeroed out” – and that’s precisely how I feel. 55 origin stories is too much to take in. We did it because we wanted to accomplish something in covering them all (and because it was a fun experiment… at least conceptually), but I was largely frustrated by the sameness of a lot of these things.

    But the game of “find a way to tell a zero that ISN’T like all the rest” was fun when the creative team engaged it as such: like Wonder Woman (which just told an isolated story from the early early early days of Diana’s adventuring) or Green Lantern New Guardians (which stayed in present-day and forecast the forming of a new NG team).

  7. I know that by the end, I was just exhausted. Not from the extra workload and the way my sleeping habits suffered, but by having to talk meaningfully about books that were bad or that I didn’t care about. I’m glad we covered them all, but I’m even more glad to go back to my core books.

  8. My fave 0’s (and as a disclaimer there was about half of the line that I didn’t read), in order starting with most favored – Wonder Woman, Action Comics, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Justice League, Batman, Batman Inc, and Sword Of Sorcery

    • Oh I forgot about Justice League! Another good example of finding a creative application of the “zero” concept. It made the last couple months of backups function as Shazam -4, Shazam -3, Shazam -2, and Shazam -1. Incidentally, I think it’d be cool they used more negatively numbered series – like Team 7 could be negatively numbered. I don’t know why this is attractive to me, but it is.

      • I always loved the backwards countdown of Zero Hour… I’m not sure that I have read any negative issues but I’m intrigued by the concept

      • This is super obnoxious, but I wanted to see how I’d rank everything, so I broke them up into classes and then ranked from there. Here’s my complete order:
        1 Wonder Woman
        2 Batwoman
        3 Flash
        4 Swamp Thing
        5 Green Lantern New Guardians
        6 Sword of Sorcery
        7 Animal Man
        8 Green Lantern
        9 Nightwing
        10 Dial H
        11 Batman
        12 Birds of Prey
        13 Justice League Dark
        14 Red Hood and the Outlaws
        15 Team 7
        16 Batman Incorporated
        17 Earth-2
        18 All Star Western
        19 Justice League
        20 Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
        21 Resurrection Man
        22 Talon
        23 Aquaman
        24 Action Comics
        25 Batgirl
        26 Demon Knights
        27 Green Lantern Corps
        28 Superman
        29 Phantom Stranger
        30 Blue Beetle
        31 DC Universe Presents
        32 Batman and Robin
        33 G.I. Combat
        34 Voodoo
        35 Red Lanterns
        36 Supergirl
        37 Detective Comics
        38 Captain Atom
        39 Teen Titans
        40 I, Vampire
        41 Grifter
        42 Batwing
        43 Suicide Squad
        44 Legion Lost
        45 Batman: The Dark Knight
        46 StormWatch
        47 Superboy
        48 Worlds’ Finest
        49 Catwoman
        50 Ravagers
        51 Fury of Firestorm
        52 Green Arrow
        53 Legion of Superheroes
        54 Savage Hawkman
        55 Deathstroke

        • Whoa. My brain just doesn’t work this way — I always suffer from “whatever comic I just read is my favorite” syndrome (except, of course, when they’re terrible). I think I can do “good” and “bad” piles, but any further ordering would be nearly impossible for me.

        • I didn’t read any of the comics you listed *below* Green Arrow #0, but I shudder to think what that might be like

        • To be fair, nearly all of his cons of numbered lists are negated here since he’s including all 55 entries of a complete set and not deciding what or what is not included, simply his order of preference. Also, he spent the entirety of the month sharing more detailed thoughts on the entries bulleted in the list in a more paragraphed analysis.

          I’m just stocked that patrickehlers.com is a real thing. Good find!

        • Lawton! Throwing my own words against me. Let me save you time – you don’t need to leave Retcon Punch to read me contradicting myself.

          patrickehlers.com was probably at its zenith when I was hosting a Fantasy Terra Nova game (which, despite my best efforts, didn’t make the show any more watchable). Obviously, it’s been some time since I kept that site active…

  9. For all our talk about favorite “in-comic” aspects of zero month, I think my favorite part of this experience has been introducing comics to friends and family. Not to get too sappy, but it was great to share those comics — and the fun of reviewing them — with people who don’t usually read comics (so don’t usually participate in this whole corner of my interests). It was a great way to remind myself how much fun comics are (and, by extension, why we have this site in the first place).

    • Yeah, we’ve talked about going guests with a little more regularity, and I think that really helps broaden our conversation. And that means getting to spend some times with perspectives of people I love (lots of family members and might-as-well-be family members on our guest list).

    • I totally agree; this seems totally in keeping with the goal of this site in the first place. It seems like part of the point of Retcon Punch was to dive into the new 52, and my impression of the new 52 is that DC was attempting to hook new readers by getting everyone on the same page. Your Zero Month with guest contributors would sort of a microcosm of that. I sure had fun reading the comic I reviewed. I would say that I am hooked, too, but unfortunately, I just don’t have the patience to wait an entire month before reading each new installment, but if nothing else, I know where to go when I do want to read comics and I’m certain that there will be more I want to read in the future. Congrats on a successful Zero Month, Shelby, Patrick, and Drew!

  10. Zero month had it’s ups and downs for sure but overall I really enjoyed it. That being said, while I did enjoy it, I’m so glad it’s over! I really want to get back on track and I’m incredibly pumped for year 2 of The New 52. Even though I think there are problems with continuity and some character portrayals, I am still excited for the MANY things that The New 52 has succeeded at.

    Beyond that, one of the best things I personally got out of Zero month was the chance to read and contribute to Retcon Punch! Even if I didn’t like a particular issue of Zero month (mostly the Liefelded issues), I knew I’d have fun reading the Alternating Currents about said issues. And yeah, actually contributing to the site was also a crazy amount of fun!

    • While teaching yesterday I compared the lists of the comics on your pull list here and my pull list to see where we crossed. Yes, while teaching. Admittedly, the students were taking a test.

      The best part of the New 52 is Retcon Punch is not blocked by my school district is what I’m trying to say.

      Oh, and The Shade needs to join Justice League Dark. That too.

      • I just did the same – apparantly myself the the punchers cross paths on 13 series currently. You guys need to be getting Action! You can now scold me for not get Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and Batwoman. Not subbing to Swamp Thing is easily my biggest regret of the reboot

        • Patrick and I picked up the first four issues of Action way back when we first started the site, but it didn’t really click for us. It seemed like Morrison at his most convoluted, and Morales’ art wasn’t doing much to clarify things. We bailed before the issue 5-6 retelling of the origin, which I’ve since been told was quite good. I think I’ll pick those up to give the series another shot. We definitely need more Superman around these parts.

        • If you weren’t a fan of 1 to 4 I’m not sure that 9 to 12 would do much for you (they are very similar in style), but I would highly suggest the origin you mentioned (5 and 6) as well as 7 and 8 (origin of Supes’ Kryptonian nanite armor, as well as Braniac and Kandor reveals) and 13 (picks up the most fanboy-centric loose end from the origin issues). At this point I think it’s going to be cheaper for me to do Swamp Thing and Animal Man in trades than go back and get all 28-ish issues on eBay.

  11. Oh man, this has nothing to do with Zero Month, but I just saw Chronicle for the first time and now I’m extremely stoked that the Action Comics annual written by Max Landis is out this month. Its at least some small consolation after the news that Grant is leaving soon. I also just re-read Action 5 & 6 tonight during the midweek doldrums and (if you excise the unnecessary Anti-Superman Army and Legion bits) this was a great version of the Superman origin that put anyone trying to write a Superman family zero in a tough position to follow up IMO

    • Also, not zero related, but I used this weekend (and the time freed up by not reading a BILLION ZEROS) to read a bunch of Mark Waid’s Daredevil (and the Amazing Spider-man that he wrote (like #677, maybe) and I gotta say: hot shit, that’s a good comic.

      Chronicle was a good ride, though? I remember thinking they didn’t know how to advertise the movie, and it looked like a jumped mess in previews – sort of a Cloverfield meets… I don’t know… Jumper or something terrible like that. Is it on Netflix instant or anything?

      • I have never read Waid’s DD but that might be something I should look into since Bendis’ Daredevil: End Of Days has me in the mood for more. Chronicle was much better than its found footage conceit would imply. The screenwriter is John Landis’ son and there seems to be a little Max Brooks-style cross-generational magic going on. While there were admittedly points where I said “isn’t it convenient someone is filming this character developement sequence”, they actually were able to use the cinema verite style to the benefit of the story in all of the most important sequences.

        • The series has a really great focus on how Matt perceives everything. It’s persistently interesting and has a great sense of humor – due in part to Matt’s more positive outlook (he’s not dreary anymore!). Also, you can grab the first issue for FREE digitally on Comixology – zero risk.

        • I may have to register for ComiXology now – I am so stubbornly paper-oriented. LOL, you referenced Jumper… I just rememberd what that movie was. Do I recall somebody from the hilrariously awful Hackers movie from the mid-90’s in it? And I think I’m getting a little Samuel L Jackson in my memory, could that be so?

    • If you weren’t a fan of 1 to 4 I’m not sure that 9 to 12 would do much for you (they are very similar in style), but I would highly suggest the origin you mentioned (5 and 6) as well as 7 and 8 (origin of Supes’ Kryptonian nanite armor, as well as Braniac and Kandor reveals) and 13 (picks up the most fanboy-centric loose end from the origin issues). At this point I think it’s going to be cheaper for me to do Swamp Thing and Animal Man in trades than go back and get all 28-ish issues on eBay.

  12. I think of all the issues this past month, I’m most thankful for Flash and Wonder Woman. Two of many in my list of winners, Flash started slow and has sped up, whereas I’ve felt Diana was doing the opposite, losing footing lately. Zero issues did a good job to let me catch my breath, look at these series and be glad I’ve continued them.

    I will say, as much as I hate Liefeld (as many of us do), I thought Hawkman #0 was decent Liefeld-wise. Don’t get me wrong, it’s bad in the long run, but noticeably better and worth my time more than hawk & dove, deathstroke, and grifter. Again, still not saying much

    Oh, and as usual, me and swampy always good, like Peanut Butter and Swamp Jelly, but that ain’t news

  13. So glad to hear other people loved Batwoman as much as I did. This was my favorite #0 and has me looking forward to rest of the current Wonder Woman crossover arc.

    A surprising second place for me was Green Lantern #0. I will preface this by saying that I usually HATE Green Lantern; I think that Hal Jordan is the LAMEST character of all time. Anyway, there were two reasons I picked up Green Lantern #0: 1) Neither Hal Jordan nor Guy Gardner (super douche) were in it and 2) The character is Muslim, I’m Muslim, and we often don’t have positive portrayals in ANY medium so it peeked my interest. While most Muslims (thankfully) aren’t given the full Gitmo water boarding treatment, I could tell that Geoff Johns had done his homework and was trying to be respectful of the Arab-American community while still creating a compelling character. Readers should keep in mind that the Lebanese Shia Muslim community of Michigan is a small sliver of the larger Muslim American community though.

    Epic fail of #0 month was… Catwoman #0. Tim Burton wants his idea back, Ann Nocenti. Also, I thought Birds of Prey #0 was a bit too straightforward with the superheroes-fight-before-they-team-up trope.

    • I think the specificity of Shia Muslims in Dearborn is one of the best part of Simon’s origin. I’d much rather have a character that has a very specific origin than one that’s too broad. I’m much happier Johns went with this route as opposed to trying to make a character represent all Arab-Americans; it helps keep the characters from becoming stereotypes.

      You’re absolutely right about Catwoman — I’m actually surprised Patrick has it ranked as high as he did on that list he made a few threads up. That shit was real bad.

  14. I just looked at the sales data for DC 0 issues (http://www.comichron.com/monthlycomicssales/2012/2012-09.html).
    I noticed some interesting things:
    1) Only 4 DC series improved their sales, and all of them are Batman spinoffs (Batman and Robin, Batman: The Dark Knight, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Catwoman). If DC made the 0 issues to gain some new readers (as I think), it clearly didn’t work.
    2) WordPress bloggers and commenters pan Deathstroke and are enthusiast of Demon Knights. Then I look at the sales chart, and I see that Deathstroke sells more than Demon Knights.
    3) Red Lanterns and Animal Man lost a lot of readers. Red Lanterns is no surprise, but everybody talks well about A – Man (me included), and I thought that this series had found its level… what’s happened?

    • I’ll never be able to explain why Liefeld comics sell at all, let alone more than other comics. I’d chalk it up to the questionable tastes of twelve-year-old boys, but that’s kind of insulting to twelve-year-old boys.

      My only guess on Red Lanterns and Animal Man is that both more-or-less rehashed the origins that have already been told for those titles (granted, Buddy’s was cast in a new context). Longtime fans could skip those issues and not really miss out on the ongoing story.

      • You’re right, a 12 years old reader is already capable of recognizing a well done comic book – and a crappy one as well. When I was 12 years old, I had already chosen my favorite comic books (Daredevil, Nightwing, …), and, over a decade after, they still are my favorites. There are a few new entries (Animal Man, Blue Beetle…), but my feelings for the comics I’ve been reading since I was a child are obviously stronger than my appreciation for Animal Man (which I’m enjoying a bunch, though).
        You gave me a definitely plausible explanation about Red Lanterns and A – Man.
        Thank you for your reply! : )

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