It’s okay, New 52 Lobo isn’t just an archetypal assassin. He’s got a mysterious, tragic past too!
While it hasn’t always been popular among readers, I don’t think DC’s New 52 reboot is all bad. Its Aquaman and Batman books are absolutely top-notch, and even some of its stranger decisions have a refreshing air of experimentation to them. That being said, if I had to choose any element of the New 52 that rankled me personally, it would be Lobo, a character so throughly fumbled that DC ended up having to reboot him twice. The character bears little resemblance to the tongue-in-cheek parody we met in Lobo: The Last Czarnian, and is now the kind of super-serious, death-dealing assassin his predecessor once mocked mercilessly.
So imagine my surprise, almost a year after the character’s re-relaunch, when I found out that DC intends to give this Lobo a brand-new ongoing series. Debuting in October under the creative team of Cullen Bunn (The Sixth Gun) and Reilly Brown (Cable & Deadpool), DC’s New 52 Lobo will take the character on hyper-violent adventures across the stars and explain how he became a cold-blooded killer. Spoiler alert: These origins involve the tragic loss of his family. Gag.
“Violence is just one aspect of the character,” Bunn told Comic Book Resources. “It’s there, and it’s something we are going to embrace in this series, but we’ll also be exploring facets of Lobo that haven’t really been brought into the spotlight. He had a life, a job, a family, a lover long before he became the cruel, devious man-hunter we’ll see in this series. We’re going to look at what shaped him into the coldblooded killer he is today.”
Oh wait, it gets better. Apparently one of Lobo’s motivating factors is that he’s the absolute best at what he does, something we haven’t seen in dozens of other anti-hero characters in the past. “Lobo doesn’t think he’s a ‘good’ guy, but he’s pretty sure he’s the ‘best’ guy for any given job,” Bunn continued. “He’s certainly an anti-hero, but something we’re introducing in this series is Lobo’s code. He follows a rather extensive code of honor.”
Here’s the problem: Most of these descriptions of the New 52 Lobo reboot seem to miss the point of what made the character so appealing. Lobo wasn’t great because of his over-the-top violence; he was entertaining because that over-the-top violence exaggerated and mocked the glut of such characters popular at that time. From all appearances however, this Lobo is being played straight, ruthlessly dispatching enemies with little in the way of self-awareness. Perhaps I’m wrong, and this series will openly parody a different breed of anti-hero, but the old Lobo never needed a tragic backstory for audiences to engage with him.
Apparently Bunn had originally pitched a very different Lobo book: a series where Lobo teams up with the identity-stealing “Faux-bo” to have buddy cop adventures across the galaxy. DC shot down the concept, but I can’t help but feel that brand of self-aware humor is sorely lacking in the New 52’s current line-up. Here’s hoping I’ll be mistaken when Lobo launches on October 1st.