Teddy Card Game asks…
For those of you who don’t know, The New 52 was fifty-two Number One comics releases that DC did last year, a sort of soft-reboot of the entire DC universe that incorporated elements of their Wildstorm and Vertigo imprints. Most or all of The New 52 #1s are priced at $.99 on Comixology (as a tool to attract new readers), and I for one found this an attractive way to become, you know, a new reader.
Originally I was going to write this blog post with titles in alphabetical order but then I realized that I am not a librarian and that doesn’t make for the most logical reading sense for our purposes. Instead I will break them up into these relatively unlike, but passably logical groups:
- Overpriced New 52 Books
- Stuff I More-Or-Less Never Miss
- Second Wave Titles
- Stuff I Like But Haven’t Really Gotten Around To
Action Comics :: Batman :: Justice League
There are two main reasons I switched from almost 100% trade paperbacks for the last several years to mostly digital comics in the last year. The first is space: My wife originally had me switch from floppies to trade paperbacks so that I wouldn’t have hundreds of essentially disposable magazines coming in every month… That I refused to ever get rid of. So I amassed a pretty kick-ass trade paperback / graphic novel collection that lots of my friends take advantage of for the big borrows. But even trade paperbacks take ups space, and my wife is a minimalist in her soul. Cloud computing lets my buy lots and lots of comics and they all live on my iPad, so don’t take up any space.
The second reason is price. Again, Comixology charges only $.99 for most of The New 52 #1 issues, to help encourage people to try them (and presumably get them hooked). After 30 or so days, cover price on most books I buy — DC or not — to $1.99. However some super popular books like the ones in this section have stayed at $2.99. So it’s not like I don’t like some of these books; I can just get an extra half-Justice League Dark for the price of not buying an adjective-less Justice League instead.
Main Character(s): Superman
Notable Creator(s): Grant Morrison, Rags Morales
1 Issue (#1)
Action Comics is set in the recent past, before the massive proliferation of superheroes in the rebooted DC universe, so a young(er) Clark Kent has got a Superman-looking tee-shirt and farm boy blue jeans and work boots instead of his sleeker superhero-ing uniform. Morrison is telling the story of a Superman whose chosen sparring partners are greedy businessmen rather than alien green men.
Grant Morrison wrote my all-time favorite Superman Story All-Star Superman a few years ago; paired with the underrated former Valiant artist Rags Morales, this comic is squarely in my wheelhouse… Just haven’t caught up (note subsection).
Main Character(s): Batman, Alfred
Notable Creator(s): Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo
13 issues (#1-12, Annual #1)
One book in and we are already at the exception that proves the rule. Part of the bigger number is that Comixology / DC priced Batman reasonably for the first few months before deciding they could get away with the higher price point. The other, of course, is that Scott Snyder is more-or-less the hottest writer in comics, and his work on Batman is a good indication as to why. He is great on Batman and even better on American Vampire (not a New 52 book). The story is disorienting; Snyder has been planting Batman-seeds for years with Dick Grayson and some peripheral Bat-heroes… And they finally gave him the big boy title with The New 52 launch. This is a comic book about Gotham City. It is the secret origin of the Wayne family. It is action, horror, and the opportunity to see Batman do some cool stuff — all brought together with the kinetic pencils of Greg Capullo. I haven’t looked at any recent sales figures but it would not surprise me if this were DC’s top-selling book.
Main Character(s): Aquaman, Batman, Cyborg, Flash, Green Lantern, Superman, Wonder Woman
Notable Creator(s): Geoff Johns, Jim Lee
6 issues (#1-6)
Justice League is DC’s veritable “put Mike Flores and Patrick Sullivan in Las Vegas and see what happens” cocktail. Basically they took the most sale-able artist in comics (Jim Lee) and paired him with the consistent hit-maker Johns… And give them Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman to play with. So if Batman isn’t DC’s best selling book, my guess is that Justice League is.
I bought the first arc of six issues primarily at my kids’ insistence for bedtime reading. It is set about five years ago and tells the story of the dawn of superheroes in the rebooted DC Universe — the Justice League against Darkseid!
Animal Man :: Birds of Prey :: Stormwatch :: Swamp Thing
With the exception of Animal Man, this section is all stuff I buy because like the proto-fanboy, I am loyal to certain characters.
Main Character(s): Buddy Baker (Animal Man) and his family, Swamp Thing; various Animal- and Swamp-themed peripherals
Notable Creator(s): Jeff Lemire
15 issues (#1-13, #0, Annual #1)
Animal Man was one of the best-reviewed “surprise” hits of The New 52. Surprise! (none of you have ever heard of Animal Man, I’d guess) I gave it a try and liked it. It’s pretty weird / violent / offbeat funny. Animal Man ties in to some of the Vertigo Grant Morrison ideas of the last century but is one of several New 52 books that has a superhero-y sounding name but is kind of an off-kilter horror book, similar to Justice League Dark or I, Vampire. Substantial crossovers with Swamp Thing didn’t hurt my interest.
Birds of Prey
Main Character(s): Black Canary, Starling; with Katana, Poison Ivy, and Batgirl
Notable Creator(s): Duane Swierczynski
13 issues (#1-12, #0)
If you read my favorite Batman stories blog posts a few months back you know how I feel about Birds of Prey. I was initially a bit apprehensive about a Birds of Prey without Gail Simone at the helm, but Duane has done a more-than-passable job in the reboot universe, kind of flipping the power relationship between Black Canary and Batgirl (Oracle in the pre-reboot continuity). The book initially launched with the excellent Jesus Saiz, who I loved from his work on some of Greg Rucka’s titles last decade. I think that anyone can like Birds of Prey but you will particularly like it if you like girl power and / or butt-kicking.
Main Character(s): Apollo, Midnighter, The Engineer Jack Hawksmoor, Jenny Quantum, Martian Manhunter
Notable Creator(s): Paul Cornell, Peter Milligan
14 issues (#1-13, #0)
Buying every issue of Stormwatch is Mike at his fanboy-est. The core cast here is from 1990s Stormwatch-spinoff The Authority by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch. The Authority and some of the other Wildstorm stuff Jim Lee was publishing himself were so popular that DC bought their company!
The best thing by far about Stormwatch is Midnighter and Apollo. Midnigher is Batman. Apollo is Superman. They are unapologetically derivative… and gay for each other. It was pretty groundbreaking when this super popular superhero book last century had their Bruce-and-Clark analogues kiss, get married, and adopt a super baby. It is just one of many conventions that this book (or at least the tradition through which this book reaches us in The New 52) sets on its ear.
Just because Midnigher is gay doesn’t mean he isn’t, you know, a merciless killing machine. Midnigher is the ultimate tactician, a platonic crystalization of Batman’s combat prowess (wearing essentially the movie version of Batman’s carbon fiber armor), and explained through a superhuman lens: Midnigher can see your every weakness consciously, therefore can plan and execute on how to execute any opponent.
My all-time favorite New 52 issue is Stormwatch #9, which is a Midnigher-centric story about him fantasizing about fighting Batman, but actually having to deal with an invading Red Lantern (Red Lanterns are like Green Lantern, but baaaaahd). How does a guy armed with a belt-knife and a karate chop beat a cosmically powered alien with a magic ring?
It’s just so darn appropriate.
As much as I will buy every issue of Stormwatch until they cancel it, I would be the first to acknowledge it is the most uneven of the books I am talking about today. There are well written ones and less well written. The art has been awesome with Miguel Sepulveda (who drew #9)… Weaker with other artists.
Especially if you don’t have the same kind of emotional attachment to these particular characters that I have… Take Stormwatch with a grain of salt.
Main Character(s): Swamp Thing, Abby Arcane, Animal Man; various Swamp- and Animal-themed peripherals
Notable Creator(s): Scott Snyder, Yanick Paquette
14 issues (#1-13, #0)
Remember all that stuff I said about Scott Snyder in the Batman section?
Nothing is going to equal Alan Moore’s genre-defining run in the 1980s, but I am glad DC gave Scott Snyder the chance to try.
Batman Incorporated :: Earth 2 :: World’s Finest
DC wound down a handful of the lower selling titles and replaced them with some of these. I split them out into their own section because I wanted to stave off the “if you like this so much how come you only have four copies of…” thoughts and reactions in advance.
Main Character(s): Batman, Robin, various Batmen of various nations
Notable Creator(s): Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham
4 issues (#1-3, #0)
This is basically the same book that I said was one of my Top 10 favorite Batman stories last time… But with a new #1.
Typical Morrison big ideas, Batman executing on a global scale, Burnham bringing his A-game every issue, and goat-themed assassins.
Morrison also has some great nods to stories by creators like Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli, and Neal Adams as he re-envisions his Batman. Here is a young Talia al Ghul going all Year One as it were:
Main Character(s): Lots of big-name superheroes from Batman / Superman / Wonder Woman to Flash and Green Lantern
Notable Creator(s): James Robinson
6 issues (#1-5, #0)
James Robinson, progenitor of maybe my all-time favorite superhero comic Starman, pens the tale of a world that is a little bit different from the mainstream DCU. “Five years ago” … That time I talked about with the Darkseid conflict in Justice League? Well what happens to a planet if, instead of the Justice League coming together to beat Darkseid, um, something else interesting happens? That is the starting point of the Earth 2 narrative. In a sense it is post-apocalyptic; in another it is one of the most hopeful and uplifting (and brightly colored) of The New 52.
Main Character(s): Huntress, Power Girl (Robin, Supergirl)
Notable Creator(s): Paul Levitz, George Perez, Kevin Maguire
6 issues (#1-5, #0)
The character Huntress was originated in the 1970s by Levitz as the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. Various continuity re-writes and universe consolidations changed her, over time, to a repentant mafia princess and the trigger-girl for Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey. A version of Huntress was, during the largely regrettable No Man’s Land storyline, one of the best — or at least cleverest — non-Bruce Wayne people ever to call [her]self Batman… But hadn’t been true to her identity as the true inheritor to the Batman in some years.
The reality created by Earth 2 (i.e “another” Batman) opened the door to bring Huntress as the daughter of Batman and Catwoman back with The New 52 reboot. Power Girl, a heroine who was originally Superman’s cousin from another world, became nothing more or less than a white singlet with peekaboo[b] cleavage. In World’s Finest, Power Girl is a mite more covered up and returns to her origin’s roots, as well.
Pre-New 52 Reboot of Power Girl, by Adam Hughes
This book is great fun, with Levitz doing his best to honor his characters, and an all-star lineup of Perez and Maguire half-drawing each issue.
Batgirl :: Batwoman :: I, Vampire :: Justice League Dark :: Wonder Woman
Main Character(s): Batgirl
Notable Creator(s): Gail Simone, covers by Adam Hughes
2 issues (#1, #0)
Birds of Prey under Gail Simone is one of your all-time favorite books?
So you try Birds of Prey not with Gail Simone and hit more-or-less every issue?
But the actual Gail Simone book, featuring the main character of Birds of Prey… You haven’t gotten along to that one?
People are inexplicable.
Main Character(s): Batwoman
Notable Creator(s): JH Williams III
1 Issue (#1)
Not only was Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka one of my Top 10 favorite Batman stories ever, I even wrote a separate post about the trade itself!
Batwoman in The New 52 is the continuation of that story… But without Greg Rucka. JH Williams III is as beautiful as ever on the visuals but without the mastermind that wove together realistic, military, superheroics with a “real” lesbian protagonist. It’s just not at the top of my stack. Maybe someday.
Main Character(s): some vampires; can’t remember any of their names; John Constantine maybe
Notable Creator(s): Joshua Hale Fialkov
4 issues (#1-4)
I really liked Joshua Hale Fialkov’s indie Image book The Last of the Greats, so I decided to give his more mainstream vampire-superhero title a swing. It’s no American Vampire, but I, Vampire is still quite good. If you like Jae Lee-esque art, it is also quite pretty. I plan to catch up more, especially given its Animal Man / Swamp Thing-like crossovers with Justice League Dark.
Justice League Dark
Main Character(s): Deadman, Dove, John Constantine, Shade the Changing Man, Zatanna, other magic-themed characters
Notable Creator(s): Peter Milligan
6 issues (#1-6)
Peter Milligan’s Shade the Changing Man with Chris Bachalo was my gateway to Vertigo-style comics back in the 1990s (thanks to my then-classmate Brian K. Vaughan). I was into Shade even before I was into the more recognizable Sandman, and certainly didn’t know what I had missed in terms of Swamp Thing. So… Milligan put Shade into this oddball group of magic-themed characters.
Both John Constantine (one of Alan Moore’s most masterful additions to the comics canon) and Zatanna are favorite characters.
The book is beautiful.
Most of these people are pretty much assholes.
I think I like it better than regular Justice League.
Main Character(s): Wonder Woman
Notable Creator(s): Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang
8 issues (#1-7, #0)
One of the best rebooted concepts for a character! Great story! Cliff Chiang is even better on this book than Azz, which is saying something! More! Exclamation! Points!
Main Character(s): Aquaman
Notable Creator(s): Geoff Johns, Ivan Reiss
1 issue (#1)
Superstar Geoff Johns, superstar Ivan Reiss (ergo gorgeous), Aquaman is back in the League, great ratings on the book…
Nope, still about talking to fish.
Those, dear Teddy, are all The New 52 books I have read and kept up with.