Words By Dr Hip-Hop | @DrHipHop85
A little less than a year ago, comic book publisher DC Comics was ending one of its usual summer comic events when the entirety of its comic universe was forever (well so far) altered. The home of such iconic characters as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Black Lightning and hundreds of others underwent a change unlike any the company had seen in its near century-long history. In the final issue of the Flash-centric mega-event Flashpoint, the DC Universe's continuity, characters, and history was reinvented into what fanboys have dubbed the "DCnU."
To show that they were serious about this new status quo, DC cancelled every proper title and in September 2011 brought us The New 52. Over the course of a month they rolled out 52 brand new comic titles. These comics were a mix of blockbuster superstars like Batman and Superman; cult favorites like Swamp Thing and Animal Man; and some pretty obscure concepts, like O.M.A.C. The titles also varied in their presentation. Some were total reinvention, others were more so slight alterations. One year later the DCnU is still around, sadly not all the 52 titles made it.
While some flourished under new writers and ideas, others sputtered from the gate. In celebration of the one year birthday of DC's new universe, we've put together a list of the seven best books from the relaunch (reboot? launch-boot?). Enjoy!
7. The Flash
Writer: Francis Manapul | Art: Francis Manapul
Featuring the superhero who led to the relaunch, The Flash differs from most of the books on this list. While many of them are lightly revamped, The Flash seems to be a near total restructuring of the classic character. The series is not only fun and energetic but is exquisitely drawn and has no problem with pushing the limits of visual storytelling. The tales in the book rely heavily on science and sci-fi concepts, but never skim on the human elements that make the scarlet speedster such a popular character.
6. Wonder Woman
Writer: Brian Azzarello | Art: Cliff Chiang
A character that has been revamped more than most, Wonder Woman definitely benefitted strongly from DC's new initiative. Taken back to her roots, the new Wonder Woman title redefines the character for a modern time. The team of Azzarello and Chiang bring to the forefront the Amazonian Princess' power, intelligence, and charisma. Adding wrinkles to her mythos, as well as mining her vast history, the book is not only fun and aciton-packed but it's smart. The team for the new Wonder Woman is instead insistent on reminding people why she's the most prominent female superhero on Earth. Thankfully, they never fail.
5. Batman and Robin
Writer: Peter Tomasi | Art: Patrick Gleason
Written by former Green Lantern Corps scribe Peter Tomasi, Batman and Robin showcases the dysfunctional family of Bruce and Damien Wayne as the Caped Crusader and his latest boy wonder, with most of the recent storylines in tact. The title balances a sense of Batman nostalgia with breaking new ground with the superhero and his familial relation. While the book does push Batman's code of honor with the threats he faces from new rogues, the core and biggest strength of the book is the growing and tumultuous relationship between Bruce and Damien.
Writers: J. H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman| Art: J. H. Williams III and Amy Reeder
Starring Kate Kane as Batwoman, the title swerves left of the usual psychopaths that other Bat-books deal with and has the titular character facing a much more supernatural and monster-based rogues gallery. This helps distinguish the book from others in its category and along with the amazing art, weaves tales that are full of suspense, drama, and personality.
3. Animal Man
Writer: Jeff Lemire | Art: Travel Foreman and Dan Green
Save for a few appearances here or there, Animal Man has not been in the DC spotlight since his classic Grant Morrison series in the late '80s/early '90s. Luckily, DC took a chance with their relaunch and gave the team of Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman, and Dan Green the opportunity to re-establish the character.The stories in Animal Man are equal part suspense thriller and family drama, with Buddy Baker's family being an integral part of the his journey. Foreman and Green's unique art styling bring a real sense of dread and foreboding terror to the story, all of which is strengthened by Lemire's incredible writing.
1. (Tie) Batman and Swamp Thing
Writer: Scott Snyder | Art: Greg Capullo (Batman) and Yanick Paquette
This was too hard to call. On one hand we have, arguably, the best Batman title in the last decade. Snyder's tales of the Dark Knight not only attempt to build upon his vast mythology but to really examine the essence and drive behind one of the world's most recognizable superheroes. The stories are perfectly paced and balance out raw, gritty action with introspective, tense storytelling. On the other hand we have a re-invigoration of a character that Alan Moore made legendary. Again, it falls to Snyder, who takes the core of the Swamp Thing story and weaves a narrative full to the brim with earnest characterization. For someone following in the footsteps of Alan Moore, Snyder's take on the character is both an homage and fresh breath.
With such wonderful books, it was impossible to pick between the two. They both exemplify the best of serialized superhero stories. While Batman feels like a psychological action thriller, Swamp Thing is more akin to a small, arthouse film, draped in the cloak of a fantasy epic. "The Court of Owls" storyline from Batman deconstructed and reconstructed the hero and did so without over-extending the narrative or missing a beat. In Swamp Thing, the initial arc was a slow-burner that really delved into the psyche of Dr. Alec Holland, while also interweaving the magical and supernatural elements that would become key to the story. Both books feature art that hammers home the themes of the books and showcase the talent of Snyder. Either way you go, these are the two best books DC is currently putting out there.