When I heard DC was going to be relaunching their universe from square one, I was intrigued because my least favorite part of superhero comics are the convoluted backstories and continuity; it’s enough to make anyone confused. While in this case, the New 52 did not meet my expectations for all of their titles, I stuck with it, finding some titles I really enjoyed and some not so much. What I can say is I read at least a little bit of almost every title and now have a thorough appreciation for what the New 52 is and isn’t. Below are the the titles I’m going to be sticking with, keeping an eye on, and a few that I don’t see myself going back to anytime soon.
Those I Will Keep Reading Issue to Issue
I will keep reading Batwoman until the issues are incomprehensible or this series is canceled. Batwoman started strong in the wake of the pre-relaunch Batwoman: Elegy series with a beautiful art style, a different take on Gotham, and one of the strongest female characters in comics. Batwoman isn’t defined by her past, her sexuality, or even her sexual orientation. Recent arcs have been harder to follow, but the creative team keeps trying something different, which I can hardly fault them for as that is something I find superhero comics sorely need. Speaking of Bats, Batman will be one of my monthly titles, as long as Scott Snyder is on it. Snyder has done an amazing job of making the character fresh and interesting, and his introduction of the new villainous organization, the Court of Owls, has left perhaps the biggest mark of the New 52 on the DC universe.
While we’re on the topic of universes, Earth 2 is hands down the best title of the Second Wave of books. Taking place in an alternate dimension without Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman, this title has a brilliant cast of characters and a world where the creative team can, and does, take more chances, similar to Marvel’s Ultimate line of comics. Demon Knights is a beloved fantasy romp. It’s not as deep as some of the other titles, but it’s a fun monthly read and gets me my D&D fix. The last of my monthly reads going forward will be Animal Man and Swamp Thing. While Rob may be running from Animal Man, I embrace its unique and incredibly creepy art style. It’s not grotesque like a slasher film, it’s creepy in this alien, Lovecraftian manner. Both of these titles have been building towards their epic crossover, Rotworld, which just started, and promises to be just as big as Night of the Owls.
Those I Will Keep Reading in Trade
There were three titles I really enjoyed and want to read some more of but can’t find it in my wallet to justify purchasing every month, so I will revisit them in trade form. Aquaman by Geoff Johns is a brilliant, new take on the character and is a title that is in on the joke of the character. Johns has also taken the time to explore the psyche of Aquaman, showing just how dark he can be. Another Justice League member, Wonder Woman, was also taken in a dynamic new direction. Brian Azzarello has redefined this character and put her smack in the middle of god politics. This title has faltered some, which is why it’s not a monthly for me, but it has too much potential not to check on now and then. The same can be said for Birds of Prey, which has a great cast of characters but suffered from a terribly confusing first plot, but I’m aboard for at least another arc or two to see what else this title and cast is capable of.
Those I Will Check on Now and Then
Titles I may start to pick up in trade, if new arcs are well reviewed, include Dial H, Action Comics, Batwing, and Supergirl. All of these titles were well written and deliver something different and fun, but fell into plenty of traps along the way. Dial H is out there and wacky, but I’m not as attached to these characters as I’d like to be. Action Comics has had some excellent arcs but was plagued by a few confusing issues. Losing Grant Morrison could either be the best thing or worst thing for the comic, and it’s the arc following his departure that will decide whether I continue to follow this title. Batwing has had too many crossovers with Batman and the rest of the bat family, but when Batwing focuses on the titular character and Africa, it becomes something unique and definitely worth checking out. Supergirl is a fun comic with a strong female character but didn’t have a terribly deep plot and overall wasn’t as strong as Batwoman or Birds of Prey when it came to filling that position on my monthly or trade reads.
Titles I’m less enthusiastic about but enjoyed and would read again if someone recommended an arc to me are All -Star Western, Nightwing, Catwoman, Batgirl, and Batman and Robin. The bat family of books are all really solid, but I had difficulty investing in any of these characters. Selina Kyle is simply not my kind of character, though, I acknowledge that Catwoman hits its mark as a comic. Both Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne are not as interesting when separated, and Barbara Gordon doesn’t feel like Barbara Gordon anymore; she feels like a wannabe-but-not-quite-as-cool Stephanie Brown. All-Star Western is a fine title that started to grow stale for me, but there is so much potential in the world that if they can change things up, I’m sure I’ll come back to it.
Of the Third Wave titles, I will be picking up Talon. The Court of Owls was amazing, and though I’m a little nervous that they’re going to be overdone, I can’t pass up the opportunity to potentially learn a bit more about them.
Those I Wish Hadn’t Been Canceled
Most of the titles DC canceled I felt had outlived their lives or at least made sense on the business end of things. The one exception to this was Justice League International. JLI took a while to get its feet, but by the end of it, I was really enjoyed all of the characters and their stories and would have gladly picked this up as a monthly issue, if they had given me the opportunity.
Those I Will Not Get Within Ten Feet of Again
There were several titles I really didn’t care for. Red Hood and the Outlaws had an excellent concept, but its character portrayal was mediocre at best and appalling at worst. Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. tried to be weird but came across as cheesy and rushed through it storylines, neither of which are things I can abide. Besides dealing with Bleez’s a– in every panel, I’m not a huge fan of the Green Lantern part of the DCU, so I will not be revisiting Red Lanterns or any of the Green Lantern titles anytime soon. And, finally, I will not be reading anymore Superman; the writing on that book was atrocious and terribly mishandled, especially for one of DC’s flagship characters.
I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who took the time to read a 52 Catch Up article. For me this series was a huge learning experience, in addition to being a lot of fun to work on. I can’t say whether I’ll still be reading the New 52 another year from now, but it will have a lasting impact on me. Before the New 52 I didn’t read comics issue to issue; instead, I always waited for the trade. It’s also thanks to the New 52 that I started to visit my local comic book shop regularly, as those titles gave me the comic book knowledge and confidence I needed to hold my own in the male-dominated LCS. Regardless of the actual content, in those ways the New 52 is a success in my book.