In celebration of DC Rebirth, let's look at the few very good series that actually came out of DC's The New 52.
I rarely get a chance to talk about comic books on here. Usually if I talk about comic books on this site, it's usually in relation to how much I dislike superhero movies now. Based on how often I rag against the genre, a lot of people have wrongfully assumed that I just hate superheroes in general, and that couldn't be further from the truth. I love superheroes and I love comic books in particular. I'm a huge DC nut when it comes to comic continuity to the point where you can ask me about any major comic book event and I can tell you its impact on DC continuity and comic books as a whole. So I just wanted to take a little break from the movies, the video games, and the anime to talk about comic books just for a second. Why? Because something pretty big is happening this week; DC Rebirth.
For hose of you not aware, DC Rebirth is a huge initiative by DC Comics to relaunch nearly all of their comic books in an attempt to retcon the past five years (more on that in a bit), get new readers interested in reading comics, and to bring Action Comics and Detective Comics back to their original numbering so that both series can reach an issue #1000 in two or so years. It's a pretty big event with a giant 80 page comic being sold Wednesday for $3.00 to get people interested in the event. But this huge event is partly due to a reaction against something known as "The New 52", or as some dedicated comics fans will call it, the worst thing that ever happened to DC Comics.
Back in 2011, DC had a line wide reboot called The New 52. In it, continuity would be reset and 80+ years of history would be wiped away to start off with a clean slate. That way, new readers can jump on board and enjoy whatever series they wanted without having to worry about continuity, or all of the character's backstory and history. To coincide with that idea, 52 new series were launched with #1 issues to give a book to everyone that was interested in reading comics. There were superhero stories, horror stories, action stories, fantasy stories, sci-fi stories, you name it and DC made a book about it.
So what went wrong? Well, many things actually. Several series were cancelled after only a few issues, the tone of every book was dark and morose with nearly every hero acting out of character, horrible stories, horrible sexism, more time dedicated launching books than making good books, and the fact that 80+ years of comic book history just didn't matter... except some stories still did happen, but DC Comics never confirmed which stories still did happen and which ones were erased. If The New 52 was a car, then it would be one of those really nice cars being sold at a car show, but all of the parts inside of it were rusted, useless, and didn't function well. Yeah it got many readers, myself included, into reading monthly comic books, but at what cost?
So with DC Rebirth wiping the mistakes of The New 52 away, fans are rejoicing that such an evil and terrible brand and universe is gone. However, that doesn't mean that good stories weren't told in The New 52. Just because 80% of it didn't work, that doesn't mean that the good 20% of it is irrelevant. So today, in honor of Wednesday's relaunch, I'm going to count down the 10 best series that came from The New 52. The only two qualifications to be on this list is that I had to have read the series and it has to have The New 52 branding on it. If it doesn't then it doesn't count. As long as it came out from 2011-2016, it should count, but graphic novels and series like "Multiversity" don't count. All of these series are great, and I'm going to go the extra mile and attach links to each book on Amazon because if these series got me into comics, then hopefully they can get someone else interest as well.
|#10: All-Star Western (2011-2014)|
"All-Star Western" was a pretty damn fun western series at heart that sported some fantastic artwork by Moritat, who's plain yet detailed style just seemed to mesh with the series. Whenever Johan was riding around in the West bringing criminals to justice as violently as possible, I had an absolute smile on my face. As the series went on though, my interest in it waned just a bit, mostly because Jonah Hex in the 21st century wasn't that interesting. He was mostly just running around Gotham getting into trouble and meeting up with modern Batman characters, which was fun, but wasn't what the book was best at. It was best when Jonah was riding the West being as surly as he could be.
The book was cancelled after three years, but it held on for an incredibly long time for what it was. No one ever thought that a western would get as many readers as it did, but Jonah Hex proved that a little bit of violence and cynicism could outdo any bad publicity.
All-Star Western Volume 1: Guns and Gotham
|#9: Future's End (2014-2015)|
35 years in the future, Batman Beyond is fighting against a machine called Brother Eye, a giant super computer that's infecting humanity and turning them all into drones. Batman Beyond travels back in time to try and stop Brother Eye, but instead of travelling back 35 years ago, he goes back 30 years when Brother Eye was already active. He didn't take over the world or anything, but it was only a matter of time until he did. While Batman Beyond was trying to save the world, other strange things began to happen in the DCU, like superheroes coming from other dimensions and strange machines appearing in outer space.
With 49 issues and several one shots (stories that told a story in a single issue), "Future's End" was a massive series that a lot of people thought was simply okay. Personally, I enjoyed it a lot, though I can understand a lot of the criticisms around it. The biggest critique was that nothing really happened in the 49 issues, and that's somewhat true. Four major storylines took place in "Future's End", one about Batman Beyond, one about Firestorm, one about a hero named Grifter, and another about Frankenstein (yes, THAT Frankenstein). Out of the four storylines, only two had legitimate endings while one just kind of fizzled out by the end. The Batman Beyond story technically finished, but the epilogue took place in another book that spun off from "Future's End".
Personally, I thought that scope of the series was pretty impressive. Each issue always had something interesting happen, and while it may not have been the most polished of experiments, the overall story was still a satisfying one. Heroes were still able to be heroes, and some heroes were paired with heroes that would have never mixed together. From example, if you've ever wanted to see Deathstroke team up with a little girl that could rewrite reality at the drop of a hat, then this series is for you. It may not be perfect, and by God it really isn't perfect, it was still a satisfying enough story for me to give it a solid recommendation to readers.
The New 52: Future's End Volume 1
Both of these series follow similar premises, so instead of trying to decide which series was better than the other, I just said screw it and threw them both together. Because of course I can.
"Demon Knights" and "Secret Six" are both ensemble cast comics that take a random group of both heroes and villains and throws them together into a fantastical setting to see what happens. "Demon Knights" throws our heroes into Athurian Camelot, while "Secret Six" throws the cast... into suburbia. As ho-hum as that may sound, keep in mind that you have superheroes and villains trying to live together in suburbia and not make a scene out of it.
Both runs were so great because of how well the characters were written and how well their interactions were. Plot was hardly the focus of either series, but if you ever wanted to see Etrigan, a demon from Hell, drink and be merry with Vandal Savage, an immortal warlord that lives for murder, then "Demon Knights" is for you. If you've ever wanted to see four villains argue about who had sex on the couch last night (spoilers, they all did. At the same time), then "Secret Six" is for you. Both series are a ton of fun, but should have gone on for much longer than they did.
Secret Six Volume 1: Friends in Low Places
Demon Knights Volume 1: Seven Against the Dark
|#7: Black Canary (2015-2016)|
|#6: I, Vampire (2011-2013)|
|#5: Justice League: The Darkseid War (2015-2016)|
|#4: Batman (2011-2016)|
|#3: Forever Evil (2013-2014)|
|#2: Batgirl of Burnside (2014-2016)|
|#1: Wonder Woman (2011-2014)|