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Dawn of DC, 2023-2024: An Obituary

How Superman, Batman, Titans and more got their groove back: looking back on DC's comic book superhero output over the past 18 months

Dawn of DC
Image credit: Jeff Spokes/DC

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For the DC Universe, the end is nigh — not just of the existing status quo, thanks to Amanda Waller’s plans that will lead to the Absolute Power era in July, but of the Dawn of DC, the name given to DC’s superhero publishing line since the start of 2023. DC confirmed to Popverse that the Dawn of DC branding will end with the launch of Absolute Power, which means that this is the final full week of 'Dawn of DC' releases. It’s a closure that should leave DC fans feeling a little bereft.

Dawn of DC promo
Image credit: DC

Launched in the aftermath of 2022’s Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths comic book series, 'Dawn of DC' was officially advertised as a move “toward the light” for the company’s superheroes, with relaunches for almost all of its primary characters — and some surprising lesser-known names, as well; Fire & Ice: Welcome to Smallville, how we loved you — and a back-to-basics approach that paired top-level creators with some of the company’s flagship characters. It’s a move that DC returns to periodically (see also 2011’s The New 52, 2016’s DC Universe: Rebirth), and one that almost always bears fruit both commercially and critically, and Dawn of DC is no exception: the line had a freshness and attitude that made it feel compelling. urgent and perhaps most of all, coherent, in a way that had hadn’t been the case for a few years, without asking fans to read every series to keep track of what was happening in any one title.

(I’m looking at you, run-up-to-Death-Metal period DC.)

City Boy #1
Image credit: DC

That coherence was helped by the fact that 'Dawn of DC' also had a number of big story points that united the line for a couple of months at a time, without requiring a signifiant buy-in from readers: summer 2023’s Knight Terrors, fall’s Gotham War crossover between Batman and Catwoman, winter’s Titans: Beast World, and this spring’s Superman: House of Brainiac were each, in their own right, character-centric events with a beginning, middle, and end that could be enjoyed by fans of each respective title involved, but together they also told the story of the march to Absolute Power, with Amanda Waller’s machinations building in the background of each. It felt as if the DC universe was, for once, not just connected but telling the same story without making that too obvious or too necessary for anyone disinterested.

That the brand could also include what were essentially sub-brands such as the AAPI-centric We Are Legends line, or the subsumed New Golden Age line speaks to its strength and versatility, as well as DC's intent to keep everything together for promotional purposes, and share the goodwill amongst otherwise disperate projects. There was a focus to the Dawn of DC that felt as if lessons had been learned from trying to run DCU Rebirth and Young Animal simultaneously, back in the day.

Selfishly, I as a reader also appreciated that Dawn of DC was, for the most part, an era that didn’t attempt to tonally downshift the DCU into another “dark” period as is so often the case; while there was no shortage of danger, drama, and tension in the various storylines and series — and even a horror-influenced summer crossover in Knight Terrors! — it didn’t feel as if there was an attempt to establish a line wide “feel” to the line, but instead actually celebrate the diversity of the DCU, from the optimism of the Superman books to the neo-noir of The Penguin, and leaning into some unexpected choices in unexpected places, such as the hard sci-fi take of The Flash (leading to a great reveal, eventually), a Doom Patrol that took an emotional lead from Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman and JLA rather than his own DP run, or the Green Lantern: War Journal series that cemented Phillip Kennedy Johnson as a writer who can find new spaces to explore in existing mythologies. (Something he’s also doing in Marvel’s Incredible Hulk right now.)

Titans Beast World
Image credit: Ivan Reis/DC

Dawn of DC lasted 18 months — six longer than originally announced for, which might speak to its success — and, as a reader, felt like a course correction for DC’s superhero line as a whole that distilled where the company’s focus was and what was possible for DC in today’s marketplace. It's tempting to just list stand-out titles from the period (Birds of Prey! Titans! Shazam!), but the truth of the matter is, as a whole, it's been a massive success month-in, month-out on a reliable basis.

It’ll be interesting to see what comes next after Absolute Power wraps up this fall, but if it’s anything like what we’ve seen in the past few months, it should be something worth paying attention to. Especially if it involves the much-anticipated, can't-believe-it-hasn't-happened-yet return of the Justice League.

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Graeme McMillan: Popverse Editor Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.
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