So a year has now passed since DC relaunched their line of books with the New 52 in a bold attempt to freshen up their titles and make them all accessible for readers — old or new.
With the #0s having recently hit the stands, that means this is the perfect time for us to take a look back at the first year of the New 52.
As such, I am delighted to be joined by fellow comics contributors Chris (lokiallthefucksigive) and Ryley (ryley-stbatman) as we all reflect on the New 52, whilst also detailing our five favorite titles of the reboot!
My Pull List from the beginning consisted of 15 titles. Action Comics, Animal Man, Aquaman, Batman, Batman and Robin, Batwoman, Demon Knights, The Flash, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Green Lantern, I, Vampire, Justice League, Justice League Dark, Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman.
With the second wave I dropped Batman and Robin and Justice League so I could add Batman Incorporated, Dial H, and Earth 2 to my pull. In the third wave I’ve not dropped anything else, but I’m trying out each of the new series at least for their first issues.
From the beginning, I also tried out the first issues of Batgirl, Nightwing, Red Hood and the Outlaws, and Justice League International, and I tried the first three of Resurrection Man and the first four of Stormwatch before deciding not to pull either series.
RYLEY’S TOP 5
#5 - BATMAN INCORPORATED
Though it has only been around for a few months with the second wave (and even then it’s an issue behind where it should be) Grant Morrison’s latest, and final Batman story has been hitting every note perfectly.
Each of its three issues so far has told a whole story from beginning to end, which is setting up whatever is to come in the finale of Morrison’s run on this title. I’m sure that as this series goes forth it’ll slowly be creeping up my top five titles at DC. Especially if subsequent issues are as perfect as the first three have been.
#4 - ANIMAL MAN
As a long time fan of Animal Man and Jeff Lemire there was no way I’d NOT enjoy this comic. For its first year it and Swamp Thing have been leading up to the big “Rotworld” event, which had a prologue in August and officially start with each series’ 13th issues.
The best part about the title so far has been that it gives an idea of how important its title character is to the DC Universe as a whole. It’s especially nice when he’s a character who was stuck in limbo for a number of years. The series never seems to deliver a dull issue, but it’ll probably become higher on my list once we see what Lemire has planned for the title once “Rotworld” is finished.
#3 - SWAMP THING
Much to do with Swamp Thing is very similar to everything to do with Animal Man. It brings back a long lost character, it has beautiful artwork, it’s showing how this character is important to the DC Universe as a whole, and it’s been building towards the “Rotworld” crossover since issue #1.
In fact, I wouldn’t even say this one is above Animal Man, but that I’d tie them both as #3 on my list. I’d never take one of these without the other, and Scott Snyder has definitely been delivering a fantastic interpretation of the character since issue #1. Just like with Animal Man, I can’t wait to see where they take the series after “Rotworld”.
#2 - BATMAN
Scott Snyder has seriously been the star writer of the New 52, with both of his ongoing titles constantly being indisputably awesome month by month. With #12 Snyder wrapped up his year long “Court of Owls” storyline, giving a huge revelation that’s sure to come back to haunt Bruce Wayne later on.
With Greg Capullo at his side making this book look as beautiful as it reads this title is definitely one of the finest that DC has put out in the New 52. As a long time fan of Batman I can say that Snyder has foot holed himself as one of the greats, and I hope he’s around on the title for years to come.
#1 - WONDER WOMAN
Those who follow my reviews for the series each month know how much I absolutely adore this series. It’s tough to put into a paragraph what it is that really makes this series my (current) favorite at DC, but if I had to some it up into one word I’d say it was “Heart”.
This series has a heart unlike anything else currently being published by DC. And not just in its titular character, but in every single character around her. That’s not even mentioning how awesome Azzarello and Chiang’s interpretation of the Greek Pantheon have been, nor how excited I was made by the cliffhanger at the end of issue #12, and neither does it say how awesome the artwork is in every single issue.
Azzarello is the first writer to make Diana into a character that I not only care about each month, but that I love, and for that I have to say this is my favorite series from the New 52 so far.
The New 52 seemed like a really good time to try some different things, and when it launched last September, I think I tried about 25 titles in total, about half. There were a few, like Catwoman, Justice League International, Green Arrow, and Green Lantern Corps that I read their first issue and decided to follow in trade instead of single issues, but there wasn’t a series I tried that I didn’t like at least a little. There were also a couple, like Resurrection Man, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Teen Titans, and Superboy that I dropped after their first arcs concluded, but again, I’m still following these series in trade.
When the Second Wave were announced, I jumped onto Dial H and Earth 2, which I’ve not dropped since and don’t see myself dropping any time soon. The Third Wave has also added Talon and Phantom Stranger to my pull list as well. That leaves me with about 15 titles now that I still follow from the New 52, plus a few from outside it, like Smallville Season 11.
Of these titles, there are some that are consistently amazing and of the highest quality. There are some that I open and know I am always going to get something superb. When I read Batman, for example, I know whatever happens will knock me for six.
And then there are some others that constantly surprise me. There are some series that have exceeded my expectations, and not just for one issue, but for almost their entire runs. You’d think I’d learn, but titles like the five I am going to list now constantly go that extra mile to impress me. I want to highlight these titles, because I’m sure whatever I have to say about Batman or Animal Man or Swamp Thing etc. will be covered in great detail elsewhere in this article. And so, in no particular order;
It’s no secret that I’m a huge Etrigan fan, so when I saw that he was getting his own title during the New 52, I was eagerly awaiting this series. However, I was not prepared for how much it would deliver.
As a fan of the medieval fantasy setting, Demon Knights is everything that I could ever ask for. There’s an eclectic cast of characters that all have secrets and motivations that bring something unique the storyline, and it is all firmly ensconced in Arthurian myth and legend, with a good dash of magic for good measure. Demon Knights always keeps me on my toes, and does one of my favourite genres justice, and then some.
When this series launched, its first three issues weren’t much to write home about. Having been a fan of Jaime Reyes before, having his new origin shown to me wasn’t really something I was interested in. However, since then, this book has come along leaps and bounds, becoming DC’s best teenage super hero book and evoking all of the sensibilities of Marvel’s Spider-Man title.
Jaime is a likeable protagonist who makes bad choices, and yet comes through all of his trials (eventually) a better person because of it. Whilst it’s not the same as the pre-Flashpoint series, this incarnation of Blue Beetle has become something entirely different, and very special because of it.
I made a point of buying all of the DC Dark titles when the New 52 launched, given my love the supernatural/magic side of the DC Universe, and yet I, Vampire was one that I was initially not going to touch. A last minute decision however, changed that and I soon found a new favourite DC title.
I, Vampire’s strength is not just the deft character work, the constantly changing status quo that means we’ve had massive changes throughout only 12 issues, or the absolutely drop dead gorgeous artwork; it is the combination of all of these things that form this fantastic take on the vampire genre that completely reinvents every preconception you may have about it.
This series is dark in every respect – the story, the characters, and the humour are as black as pitch, and yet this is possibly the most surprisingly good series of the New 52 selection that I’ve read.
GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS
With three Green Lantern books on the stands (four if you count Red Lanterns), it’s easy to overlook this newest title in favour of the more safe options of Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. But then you’d be missing out on the book that embraces the Green Lantern mythos moreso than any of the others.
Whereas Green Lantern was more concerned with Sinestro than anything else for the first 6 months of stories, and the less said about GLC and Red Lanterns the better, New Guardians has explained and explored much more of what has made the Green Lantern line of books so successful over the last few years, assembling and dismantling an impressive team of Lantern Corpsmen to tell a consistent story.
Where the other Lantern titles have bounced up and down in quality, New Guardians has been solid and impressive all the way through its first year, and hopefully beyond.
I’ve been burned before by books that are written by their artists. It never usually ends well. The New 52 incarnation of The Flash has redeemed the concept in my eyes, as the writer/artist combo of Manapul and Buccellato are absolutely superb. Their innovative approach to storytelling is only made better by being able to move the story in the direction they want, and both of them have proven themselves good writers as well as artists.
This series reinvents Barry Allen as the Flash, gives his Rogues a new look, and introduces many new characters that bring their own unique additions to the proceedings too. The draw for this series is the artwork, I’m sure, but you’ll likely stick around for the storylines too. And so you should.
And there you have it. Five titles that I highly recommend and you may not have checked out before. They are unpredictable, much better than you’d think, and my five star picks of the New 52 after one year’s worth of stories.
I jumped on a fair few title at the start of the New 52, as part of the ‘Rambling About Comics’ segment where along with Ryley, we tried to discuss as many of the #1s as possible. Catwoman, Captain Atom, Nightwing and Superboy were the only titles where after #1 I knew that they were titles which I only wanted to pick up in collected editions if anything, where some, such as The Fury of Firestorm and Red Lanterns, I stuck with for three issues.
Going through the titles I have tried, things have varied, with certain issue milestones marking cut off points for me. For instance, #6 saw Justice League Dark get dropped, and #7 was the last issue where I picked up Batgirl, Detective Comics, Green Arrow, Justice League International and Stormwatch.
My Pull List stayed fairly stable from then on, with only the recent months seeing Superman fall at #12, Justice League at #0 and Demon Knights at #13.
Current Pull List;
Action Comics, Animal Man, Aquaman, Batman, Batwoman, Blue Beetle, Dial H, The Flash, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians, Swamp Thing, Wonder Woman.
Anyway, here are my five picks from the first year of the New 52;
What to say about Animal Man. Consistently excellent since #1, this is a comic which I am always eagerly anticipating whenever the next issue hits the stands. Written by Jeff Lemire, he has crafted a superb story, which is both accessible to new readers, as well as building on the character’s rich history. What I really loved about this title however, was the family element that Lemire included, making Buddy and his family the ‘cast’ of the title, meaning that this is much more than a simple superhero comic.
The series really hit the ground running, pitting Buddy against the forces of the Rot – whilst integrating him with the DC Universe a whole. And this series has not just been about reintroducing the character – but the first year has led up to the awesome “Rotworld” storyline and crossover, along with Snyder’s Swamp Thing. Roll on the second year.
Following on from Grant Morrison as the head Batman writer must be a pretty daunting thing. You wouldn’t think it however, from how well Scott Snyder has handled himself on Batman. In pitting Bruce against the Court of the Owls, Snyder really make the title his own, telling a gripping story of how even Batman can miss things – things which will come back to haunt him. Greg Capullo has really brought this title to life with his artwork too, really making Snyder’s story happen.
I mean, who honestly can forget the issue where Batman was caught in the labyrinth? Seeing him powerless, and tottering on the edge of insanity was beautifully conveyed by the pages literally spiralling around out of control, making it a really powerful read.
The Court of the Owls may have been defeated for now – but next up is “Death of the Family” – and I just can’t wait to see what Snyder does with the Joker.
The Flash is a character who I have always liked, even when I wasn’t into DC Comics all that much. Saying that however, Wally West was “my” Flash, so when DC effectively benched him and brought Barry Allen back, I wasn’t too pleased. However, I thought I would still give his title a try in the New 52, since Manapul and Buccellato as an artistic team are top notch. As a writing team however, I was uncertain.
A year later, and I now appreciate just how good the pair are together. They haven’t just made me care for Barry and his adventures, but they have also freshened up the Flash as a character, reshuffling the status quo of his supporting cast slightly, and revamping the Rogues.
As a title, The Flash really looks stylish – most obviously with the title cards each month always being something different, nicely melted away into the splash page. Seeing the pair flawlessly translate their story to the page is a delight, with The Flash as a title always providing cool and interesting ways of conveying what is going on in the story through the sequential art.
FRANKENSTEIN: AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with this title. I enjoyed Frankenstein in Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers, so I decided to give this a go. And well, first Lemire, and then Matthew Kindt delivered something wonderful.
The best way to describe this comic is “insane”. Frankenstein is a S.H.A.D.E. agent, part of a secret organisation which takes on the monstrous threats which even the world’s superheroes cannot handle. Quite literally, it is monsters against monster for the safety of humanity. Frank is the best agent S.H.A.D.E. has, and is just insanely wonderful to read, with his sense of morality and justice really driving him to fight the good fight.
It has been an entertaining read from the get go, and I’m gutted that this title is set to be cancelled to make way for the fourth wave of the New 52. The thing about Frank though, is that he’ll turn up again when needed – I just hope that it will be soon.
I have been of a fan of Green Lantern by Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke for a while now. Whilst this series had a fairly solid opening arc focusing around Sinestro, it wasn’t quite up to the high standards which everyone has come to expect from the pair now. However, kicking into the finale of the opening arc and into “Secret of the Indigio Tribe”, this title well and truly returned to form, serving up a further fantastic expansion to the Green Lantern mythos which Johns has done so much to refine during his tenure.
Add to that the fact that we are now heading into the “Rise of the Third Army”, which once again has some fairly important looking ramifications for the Green Lantern universe as well – something which is having an impact on Green Lantern: New Guardians, another excellent series.
I’m just hoping that both Hal and Sinestro survive the experience – I have really liked their new partnership.
So that’s it for our segment on the first year of the New 52!
Feel free to share your five personal titles which have surprised or impressed you, whether by leaving a comment below or reblogging with your picks.