Since I don’t read Hellblazer I don’t have any strong feelings about the Vertigo series ending at issue #300 and being replaced by a Constantine series about the DC Universe version of the character. But I do find it interesting that the news led to a surge of articles about comics being relaunched and renumbered, since I figured the issue was largely dead.
First, let me say that I prefer for a comic series to have a long, sequentially-numbered run of issues. This has less to do with nostalgia for things past than with practicality. It is easy to figure out where, for example, Savage Dragon #147 fits into one’s collection and the history of the character–it goes between #146 and #148, and it’s about 35 issues before the most recent one. It is hard (or at least harder) to do the same thing with Iron Man #7–for one thing, I’d need to figure out which #7 we’re talking about, as there have been at least five that I know of, and there’s no pattern to when they occur. Moreover, I fail to see any lasting benefit to renumbering a series as a means of boosting sales and attracting new readers. If it was such an effective gimmick, no comic would need to do it more than once, let alone three times in a decade. So, if it were up to me, various long-running series would be numbered sequentially without interruption, and it’d be a lot easier to keep track of them, and that would be that.
That said, this is an argument I lost many years ago. DC renumbered most of its long-running series before I even got into comics, and Marvel started doing the same shortly after I showed up. In the mid-2000s the trend went the other way, and we got Fantastic Four #500 and Superman #650, and I had hope that the Big Two learned their lesson and would stop it with the silly counting tricks. But by now Marvel has settled into a pattern of relaunching, re-titling, and restoring a series willy-nilly, while DC has reset virtually all of their books. Obviously, chances are good we will nevertheless see, f’rinstance, Action Comics #1000. But we’re probably not going to see Action #905-999 or #1030-1099 in any meaningful sense, so there really isn’t any point anymore.
Uninterrupted sequential numbering of corporate superhero comics is a lost cause, and going forward I would be very surprised to see a Marvel or DC title go for more than 50 consecutive issues without a silly stunt. At this point I’ve made peace with it, so it surprises me that anybody was clinging to the idea that Hellblazer would go untouched, as if Dan DiDio might somehow fail to notice he’s publishing a series he hasn’t micromanaged yet. Personally, I am resigned to buying Captain America #1 over and over, as long as the story’s good.
What’s more important to me now is that Marvel and DC figure out when to do these inevitable relaunches. The current Marvel Now! program rubs me the right way, because each of the series being relaunched seems to have some fairly good justification. That is, I don’t think there’s a great reason to restart Avengers at #1. But if you’re bound and determined to do it, I think “The writer is somebody other than Brian Bendis for the first time in eight years” is at least a halfway decent reason. On the other hand, DC relaunched Green Lantern last year for no other reason than a) it was September and b) Sinestro replaced Hal Jordan as the title character for about two and a half issues.
In this renumberiffic landscape, there needs to be some vague rules about when you ought to or ought not to start over with a new series. Marvel probably should have launched the current Dark Avengers with a #1 instead of #175, but it certainly doesn’t need to renumber the book now as it is still mostly continuing the same storyline. On the other hand, Journey Into Mystery #646 will start a new Sif storyline that probably won’t be all that deeply connected to the previous Loki feature, so there’s not much reason to maintain any continuity with the numbers. Given the decision to reset the Legion books at #1, it made sense for DC to end Adventure Comics altogether and replace it with Legion Lost, since the only purpose of the Adventure brand was tradition. In contrast, I have no idea why DC didn’t use the opportunity to replace Action and Detective with new books that actually have Superman and Batman’s names in the titles. A Batgirl storyline reintroducing Barbara Gordon is a sensible place for a new #1; a new series about the Red She-Hulk is a rather silly place for a #59. And so on.
It may seem absurd to be worrying about how to get these relaunches right so soon after the Big Two have relaunched virtually everything they publish. But it’s sillier to think the New 52 or Marvel Now! will stand the test of time, given that both initiatives are based in the idea that no previous initiatives need to stand the test of time. By 2015 or so we’ll be seeing this topic come up again, and it would be nice if Marvel and DC learn something by then.