The Top 10 DC Comics Relaunch Titles

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"What are they thinking?" It was the question posed in comic shops all around the world and a topic of much debate amongst the many message boards out there. Why would DC take all their comics, relaunch everything with brand-new number one issues, and change the history of characters - and the DC Comics universe as a whole - when there is already such a rich history? 52 new books released within the span of a month. A lot of people want to know which books are worth their money and which are better left to rot on the shelf. So here are my top ten favorite books from the first month of the relaunch and the ones I think have some of the most potential.

Action Comics

Superman is one of the most recognizable comic characters in all of existence, but how often can you recycle the same material before it gets old and stale? Why should we care about the young adventures of Superman? For one thing, it doesn't hurt having Grant Morrison in the writer's seat, and yet it's also refreshing to see Superman painted in colors that don't initially echo the boy scout mentality everyone knows him for. The reader also isn't subjected to yet another telling of his Smallville roots, but rather we get to see Superman in the big city trying to do good while dispensing his own form of justice. Toying with killing a man in order to get a confession. Fighting against the police force he's usually one to work hand-in-hand with. A Superman still coming to grips with the full extent of his powers and how far he can push those boundaries. It all makes for an enjoyable and interesting take on the character that manages to outshine and overshadow his other DC offerings. Superman protecting Metropolis in a t-shirt, jeans, boots, and a cape might throw some people off, but for me I couldn't get enough.

 

Animal Man

When the new 52 were announced, there were some obvious standout titles that you just knew were going to be good (many of which appear on this list) and others that would fail miserably. The thing that surprised me most, however, was the titles that came out of nowhere and blew me over with how captivating they were. Take Animal Man, for instance, as he's a character I know in name and abilities only, as I've never read a single book that he's been in. While the washed out art style isn't for everyone, the story and characterization of Buddy Baker is what kept me flipping pages up until one of the most chilling 'To Be Continued' page of any 52 comic released. Don't let the character's lack of mainstream attention deter you from reading this title, as it's very newcomer friendly, and has the chance to be one of the most gripping tales to come out of the relaunch in the long run.

 

Aquaman

Writer Geoff Johns is a genius when it comes to taking characters who were once popular or either right on the cusp of stardom and then turning them into superstars. Johns did it first with Green Lantern, moved on to The Flash (though some would argue less successfully so), and now he has his focus set squarely on Aquaman. People have tried before, but how do you make a character who talks to fish interesting? You do so by attacking the naysayers head-on, explaining the strengths of the character without preaching to the audience, and delivering a handful of Keanu Reeves "whoa" inspiring moments. Aquaman is a book that's equal parts action, horror, romance, humor, and heart all rolled up into one. You'll go into the book asking how could Aquaman ever be somebody worth reading about, but you'll leave amazed and wondering how you could've ever laughed at Aquaman in the first place.

 

Batgirl

Barbara Gordon was once involved in one of the most important Batman and Joker stories ever told, which ended with her being critically wounded and paralyzed. Her handicap didn't keep her down and she found many new fans as the brains behind Birds of Prey, who went by the name Oracle. When it was revealed that Barbara would once again don the Batgirl costume, fans voiced their hatred at the fact that her past was being reworked so extensively that she would no longer be paralyzed from Joker's heinous attack. The issue of the rework never bothered me, as I was never a huge fan of Barbara, Batgirl, or Oracle, but writer Gail Simone managed to make the new Barbara so flawed and yet strong that I was amazed at the level of character depth on display in one issue. Barbara struggling with the horrors and post-traumatic stress of Joker's attack (though in the relaunched universe it just left her critically wounded). Barbara desperate to prove she still has what it takes to fight crime as Batgirl. Barbara trying to find her place in the world without the help of her dad. I never thought I'd find myself caring about Barbara Gordon and her place in the new DC universe, but now I can't wait to read more.

 

Batman

Batman + Scott Snyder = 'Nuff Said. Okay, so wrong comic company quote, but it still applies, as the phenomenal Scott Snyder - who seems to be playing the role of Midas nowadays as everything he touches turns into gold - has moved off his short stint with Detective Comics to helm Batman along with artist Greg Capullo, who handles the artwork as deftly as Snyder handles the writing. It's great to see the redesigns when it comes to some of Batman's classic rogues, but I'm also intrigued by what I can only hope are some new villains that will be introduced through Snyder's time with the title. The comic isn't as gritty and dark as its Detective Comics brethren, but it certainly has a Seven vibe at times. Besides having a neat twist ending/cliffhanger, you'll also be treated to a number of Bat-family cameos who will hopefully keep a presence throughout the book as the pages on the calendar flip from one to the next.

 

Batwoman

Much has been made of Batwoman, but beyond a cameo here and there and an all too brief series, Batwoman is finally back and picking up the pieces from where we last left her and I couldn't be happier. When she first appeared on the scene, the big news that made the rounds was regarding Batwoman's homosexuality, but she's much more than just that in this comic. She's a distraught lover, concerned cousin, watchful teacher, and hardened warrior worthy of her position in the Batman family. The story and character work is phenomenal, but it's the breathtaking artwork and the divide that happens between one panel to the next when Kate Kane is working and when she's a regular citizen that truly separates the book from the rest. While donning her Batwoman outfit, the action is like an ethereal painting brought to life and given the ability to move and feel fluid, while her civilian life is depicted more in muted tones and drawn like a standard comic. Batwoman is anything but standard, as she stands tall as one of the top stars when it comes to the Batman family and DC universe as a whole.

 

Detective Comics

I know what you're thinking, "Yet another Batman franchise book on this list," but what can I say other than DC knows who their bread and butter is and they want to make sure he's treated with reverence and the utmost appreciation. Fans will still get a fair share of Batman busting heads, but Detective Comics truly shines in its dark, gritty, and downright disturbing ambiance. Batman has always been a great detective and this is the book where you get to see those skills put to the test, as it doesn't get much better than Batman tracking down his most famous foe - Joker. Also, despite the chilling and downright shocking last page splash, the big question just might be if Joker is truly the star, or if there's someone even more frightening waiting in the wings for Batman?

 

I, Vampire

I have no idea whether I, Vampire is a completely new series or a merged/adapted one like the bulk of DC's new 52, but frankly I could care less. I don't have an issue with vampires as long as someone delivers a unique take on them (such as Scott Snyder's American Vampire series), but when I first saw this title listed I thought it was going to be nothing more than your standard vampire fluff. With trepidation I began reading the book, but quickly found myself wanting more by the time I got to the end. I, Vampire tells the complicated romance between Andrew Stanton and Mary, the Queen of the Damned. Andrew wants to live a life of normalcy (as normal as one could be living as a vampire) while Mary is intent on raising a vampire army in order to conquer the world and take the superheroes down. When the two ideals come in conflict with each, will Andrew be able to protect humanity from the coming storm? Surprisingly romantic, a slight bit of comedy, and a beautiful art style make I, Vampire one of the most surprising of all the 52 new books.

 

Justice League Dark

Both Justice League and Justice League International had strong showings and I'd highly recommend them as well, but out of the three Justice League books that were released, Justice League Dark gets my vote for stepping outside the box in order to bring together a rag-tag group of the DC universe's most magically gifted characters and delivering a haunting book in the process. Magic has always been a tricky obstacle in the DC universe, as it's one of the most devastating powers around and can bring people like Superman to his knees. Zatanna, Deadman, John Constantine, Shade the Changing Man, and Madame Xanadu might not be the most recognizable names, but hopefully these characters (and therefore this series) get the attention they deserve.

 

Voodoo

Time for a two-part confession: 1) I never read anything featuring Voodoo before, and 2) Sami Basri's art is fantastic and he does remarkable work when it comes to rendering the female form. I bashfully say that as Voodoo is an exotic dancer, in a state of undress for the bulk of the comic, and every panel featuring her is quite titillating. So sure, I'm in love with the eye candy, but the character and premise equally hold my attention throughout as well. Is she a hero? A villain? Who are the people interested in her and looking for more information? I don't know the answers, but I'm curious to see how this cat and mouse chase plays out over the course of the series, and I'm looking forward to learning more about the exotic beauty that is Voodoo.

 
So there we go - my top ten favorite titles out of the new DC 52. The list runs the gamut and showcases all aspects of what DC is attempting to do with their new relaunch. We've got fan favorites in Superman and Batman making the list, fringe characters such as Aquaman and Animal Man trying to prove themselves as A-listers, vampires that aren't boiling over with teenage angst, and there's even an alien stripper. Keep up the good work DC, as I look forward to seeing what these books - as well as other titles that just barely missed out on being included in this list - will be bringing to the comic landscape in the months to come.
 
Jason Van Horn

Column by Jason Van Horn

Jason has worked as the editorial manager and head writer for a number of sci-fi/fantasy and videogame related sites that were part of the IGN network once upon a time. He currently writes for LitReactor, where he puts his love of comics to good use, and the gaming website MPOGD, where he handles reviews, previews, and interviews for all things multiplayer.

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Comments

Kirk's picture
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Kirk from Pingree Grove, IL is reading The Book Of The New Sun October 4, 2011 - 1:23pm

I haven't had the chance to read any of these yet, but Justice League Dark sounds pretty great to me.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading A lot of Brian Evenson October 4, 2011 - 1:24pm

Is that anything like Milky Way Dark or Snickers Dark?

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break October 4, 2011 - 1:29pm

Great article Jason,

I've been a Marvel guy my whole life, but I've really been getting into these, especially Justice League (Jim Lee kills it) and Batman.

Sarah Metts's picture
Sarah Metts from Rock Hill, SC is reading A Game of Thrones October 4, 2011 - 2:54pm

Appreciate the list. Seems like equal parts great writing and artwork. 

Having not kept up with story lines on a steady basis makes the reboots refreshing for me. Got a road trip coming up- might have to go pick one or two for the road.  

Kirk's picture
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Kirk from Pingree Grove, IL is reading The Book Of The New Sun October 4, 2011 - 3:01pm

Right on, Sarah. Reboots are the perfect opportunity for the casual reader to get introduced to a title. Though for really casual readers, I'm a big fan of one-offs and collected story arcs.

Aidan's picture
Aidan from Tucson, AZ is reading Lost in America October 4, 2011 - 6:05pm

Thanks for the write up.  I broke down and bought subscriptions (the actual paper kind!) and am looking forward to getting my hands on Action Comics, Detective Comics, Superman, Batman and Justice League. It's nice to have a heads up as to what's on the way.

Kirk's picture
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Kirk from Pingree Grove, IL is reading The Book Of The New Sun October 4, 2011 - 8:49pm

I wish they could figure out how to do a comic where Flash has the same personality he had on the JL cartoon. Might get a little obnoxious in big doses though.

Meachman's picture
Meachman from Indianapolis is reading Amusing Ourselves to Death October 5, 2011 - 11:07am

I know Red Hood and the Outlaws got some contrversial reviews, but I thought it showed a lot of promise and was a fun, naughty title that I enjoy seeing from DC.  I think that using such damaged characters, like what Jeff Parker is doing with his Thunderbolts title at Marvel, is a great tool for bringing humanity to a medium where it's easy to get lost in the fantastic.

Waterhouse's picture
Waterhouse from Columbus is reading Bullet Park, John Cheever October 5, 2011 - 2:31pm

Oh, is Morrison done butchering Batman? Might have to pick up an issue, then.

Jason Van Horn's picture
Jason Van Horn from North Carolina is reading A Feast For Crows October 5, 2011 - 9:00pm

Meachman, Red Hood and the Outlaws definitely made my list when it came to books to read, I just sadly had to limit my picks to what I felt was the Top 10. I completely agree though that too many people looked at one negative criticism and didn't view the book as a whole. If you take the book for what it is - cool guys, cool action, and a sexy girl meant to stroke the male ego - you'll like the book more.

My piece for next month is actually going to address the issue of Starfire and Catwoman - the fact that people have had objection against their sexuality as it's been shown so far in the new DC 52 - and yet there are titles that have been very violent and not a second glance is given to them. So it's going to look at sex versus violence and why readers have an easier time accepting one over the other.

Meachman's picture
Meachman from Indianapolis is reading Amusing Ourselves to Death October 5, 2011 - 10:11pm

Jason, can't wait to read the piece on Starfire next month

Alex Kane's picture
Alex Kane from west-central Illinois is reading Dark Orbit October 7, 2011 - 11:03am

Fantastic list, for sure -- Batman and Detective Comics were especially phenomenal. One I'd add is "Swamp Thing," whose #1 issue blew me away. Great writing, gorgeous artwork. I also enjoyed "Nightwing" and "Batwing," which are pretty interesting angles on the growing Batman universe.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 10, 2011 - 8:40pm

Grant Morrison is doing one last Batman series and it will begin sometime next year. I think it's called Batman: Leviathan and it will last for 12 issues and it's supposed to have a monthly schedule. I assume it will continue his work with the character rather than be a revamp kind of thing like everything else DC is publishing now. There's supposed to be a "one-shot" issue that's coming out in December to wrap up the Batman Incorporated series or something.

Regarding Animal Man's writer, he also writes and draws Vertigo's Sweet Tooth, which is a pretty decent comic. He's also the writer on DC's Frankenstein title.

About this relaunch stuff, I haven't been too impressed by anything so far. Action Comics was ok, but I'm a big Grant Morrison fan. I think it definitely falls short of All-Star Superman.

Zackery Olson's picture
Zackery Olson from Rockford, IL is reading pretty much anything I can get my hands on March 10, 2012 - 6:38pm

I hate to be the dude that nit-picks at something not related to the article, but disability and handicap aren't the same thing. Handicap is a social construct. Barbara Gordon as a character was never "handicapped."

 

Also, agree with your take on the new Detective Comics book and a lot of the oquaman who never seem to get their proper respect.