If it's crap ... We'll tell you
In this day and age it has become so easy to write or record content for the internet that everyone and their dog seems to be doing it, but that doesn’t mean that anything they have to say is worth listening to! So many ridiculous people have jumped on the internet bandwagon of reviewing things that are easy to review and are frequently reviewed to death… like movies! Among the worst the internet has to offer are Jeremy Jahns and Grace Randolph of YouTube fame. Jahns for instance once reviewed Inception saying that Nolan knows more about the subconscious mind than anyone, even though anyone who bothered to research the science behind Inception will tell you the film does not line up with what psychologists know about dreams and Randolph once gave My Little Pony a bad review while admitting she hadn't watched even a single episode!
However there are some people in the world who are worth listening to; “Movie” Bob Chipman of EscapistMagazine.com always researches his subjects extensively beforehand and although I seldom agree with what he says I always give him credit for the fact that he brings a lot of insight to his work and keeps it short. Mike Stoklasa aka Mr. Plinkett of RedLetterMedia.com usually makes an extremely long review for a movie that’s been released a decade prior and his reviews clearly require the audience to be familiar with the film beforehand but he always manages to go into an extreme level of depth that I’ve never seen from anyone else, in my opinion, he’s the best film critic in the world!
A few years ago I wrote a review for The Dark Knight Rises, even though I had noticed that it seemed everyone else in the world had too, the problem was that none of the many, many, many, many reviews I read or watched mentioned any of the films flaws that were kind of obvious to me. So to put it bluntly I wrote my review because I felt no-one had written a good one! Now in September 2011 DC Comics cancelled their entire product line relaunching new volumes of many of their titles, introducing many new ones and not bringing back some others, then in October 2012 they released a special zero issue for every title. For the first anniversary many people reviewed the books published by DC and once again I saw many bad reviews where people seemed to miss the importance of seemingly unimportant details. So once again I have decided to write a review on a subject that has been extensively over reviewed because I actually HAVE read all the books from New 52 DC's first year (including their zero issues) and unlike many of the people who create content for the Internet I actually can tell my head from my ass!
Recently DC’s biggest competitor Marvel has been moving forwards in ways no-one would have thought possible a few years ago. Marvel is now part of Disney and they are taking a more hands on approach with their properties in live action. So DC realized it was time to step up their game or risk loosing more of the comic market to Marvel. DC obviously knew that in rebooting their product line they’d loose out on Action Comics reaching it’s 1000th issue and they’d force many of their longstanding fans to start over with what they knew about their favorite characters. But they also knew that by rebooting their universe they could start over with a new timeline that integrated the Vertigo and WildStorm comic universes much in the same way that DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1986 rebooted their timeline as it was then and allowed the editors of the time to integrate the Charlton Comics, EC Comics and Fawcett Comics characters, among others, into the regular DC timeline. So let's see what the various titles were like.
Grant Morrison writer, Rags Morales artist
Action Comics is of course the home of DC's Superman, the first superhero and the rock on which comics are built and the flagship title of DC so it's very important to get it right. The first several story arcs of Action Comics are set in the first year of the New 52 timeline before jumping forwards to the current setting of year five. This New 52 version of Superman has many nods to the original Golden Age Superman, his parents the Kents died when he was a teenager, his costume is back to being an indestructible garment from Krypton but now it's armor, Clark Kent worked at the Daily Star newspaper before moving to the Daily Planet and he and Batman are more than just colleagues; they’re friends. In most Superman origin stories he has always been welcomed by the people of Metropolis when he first shows up but the biggest change in these new comics is that he's now seen with skepticism and as a potential threat by cynical people who believe that if it's too good to be true it probably is which is why Luthor is now a scientist hired by the government to take down Superman if the need should arise. The artwork and writing were good throughout and the story laid down the foundations of Superman’s early years pretty well in this new timeline, so job done.
Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray writers, Moriat, Jordi Bernet, Phil Winslade, Patrick Scherberger, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Scott Kolins artists
This is the sort of book I didn't expect to see from DC at all because it acts as a showcase for forgotten western heroes of the DC Universe such as El Diablo, Bat Lash, Nighthawk and Cinnamon and longtime DC badass Jonah Hex. The main stories are all about Hex but the back up stories are an anthology focusing on many of it’s Wild West heroes. Now since this is the DC Universe and no-one really cares if it doesn't involve Batman in some way, DC have wisely decided to set some stories in Gotham City of the past with the ancestors of Bruce Wayne and the Penguin as supporting cast characters, Hex even finds what will one day be the Batcave! The art and writing varied from one creative team to another but they’re all of similar quality, the stories gave us some insight into the fictional 1880s of the DC Universe where gods and monsters existed in the wild west.
Jeff Lemire writer, Travel Foreman, John Paul Leon, Steve Pugh, Timothy Green II and Alberto Ponticelli artists
Animal Man was one of the characters from Vertigo Comics for mature readers, so we know not a lot of people have read it! Buddy Baker the Animal Man is the temporary avatar of the life force of all the animals in the world who will keep the power until the true avatar, his daughter, comes of age. The prologue to the story acknowledges that the Animal Man title from the previous DC continuity has happened. Unfortunately the writing made this title long and quite difficult to read and the art, although suited to the book and consistent even though it was made by several different artists, was macabre and disgusting!
Geoff Johns writer, Ivan Reiss artist
Aquaman, one of DC's Golden Age heroes, is the breakout character of the New 52 DC Universe! The storyline was excellent and quite meta too, the civilians who come across Aquaman misunderstand him in the same way the fans do and he has to prove his worth to the civilians and the fans alike! The first issue starts with clarifying Aquaman's powers, showing that his ability to survive intense ocean pressures gives him tremendous strength and durability on land and though he can't fly but he can leap like the Hulk! In the story he is no longer the king of Atlantis, he abdicated the throne to live in his human father's lighthouse in a small costal American town. Both the writing and artwork were topnotch throughout the first year’s run. At the time of this comic's run Marvel's Avengers movie was in cinemas, but Aquaman's title managed to outsell Marvel's Avengers vs. X-Men comic... think about that!
Gail Simone writer, Ardian Syaf artist
Sadly the most memorable thing about DC's Silver Age heroine Batgirl is that she was once shot and paralyzed from the waist down by the Joker in The Killing Joke graphic novel. DC want to say that The Killing Joke happened at one point in this timeline but they also want the Barbara Gordon Batgirl (but not the Cassandra Cain or Stephanie Brown) Batgirl in the present, so (as can only happen in comics and soap operas) Barbara’s spine is healed and she’s prowling the Gotham rooftops again! The writing is solid and the artwork suits the character and tone of the book pretty well. However the new storyline starts in the current New 52 setting which is five years since the first appearance of Batman and yet Barbara’s younger brother who was a newborn in Batman Year One (which DC has stated is a part of Batman’s timeline) is now a nineteen year old serial killer (comics and soap operas people)!
Scott Snyder writer, Greg Capullo artist
As one of DC's Golden Age characters and the most well recognized and financially successful comic book hero in the world it's pretty important to not screw up Batman. Many (mostly myself) had hoped that DC would use the New 52 as a fresh start for Batman’s own timeline, but every Batman story from the old DCU has been carried over to the New 52, more on the consequences of this later. Writers reach a point when they run out of ideas for genuine character development and start revealing that some characters are related to others (Nightcrawler and Mystique) or that they have long lost relatives who turn out to be new villains (Professor X’s twin sister)! Writer Scott Snyder has revived a few old DC ideas. The Court of Owls has now been revealed to have operated as sinister vigilantes in Gotham before Batman making the character less special and unique and their enforcer the deadly Talon is revealed to be Batman’s long lost brother! Snyder has also very disappointingly ruined the character of Mr. Freeze revealing that he is not a tragic scientist trying to revive his dead wife but that the woman believed to be his wife was a wealthy young woman frozen to avoid dying from a fatal illness years before Freeze was even born and he merely obsesses over her like a stalker! The art is good and the writing is consistent with no filler stories and every issue builds to the big picture, but it’s a big picture that only convolutes and ruins the character and his world. Snyder has been heralded as the best new writer of comics, but I believe he’s the worst thing to happen to Batman since Joel Schumacher!
Batman and Robin
Peter J. Tomasi writer, Patrick Gleeson artist
Bruce Wayne and Talia, the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul, had a son named Damian who is now the new Robin. The first storyline focuses on the rivalry between Batman and the son of Henri Ducard, one of the men who trained him, who is of course (surprise, surprise) pissed off that Wayne was his father’s favorite pupil and offers to mentor Damian to get even. The artwork isn’t too shabby and the writing is good but seeing as to how Damian would eventually be killed off in the second year of the New 52 this entire title was unnecessary!
Batman The Dark Knight
Paul Jenkins and Greg Hurwitz writers, David Finch artist
Scarecrow screws around with Batman’s brains and he hallucinates that he’s fighting all the villains from his rogues gallery giving the creative team a chance to bring them all in the story but of course it’s all in his head. Great detailed artwork and good writing throughout but pointless storyline that will be forgotten in a few months. I’d rather see one good Batman comic with memorable stories that count to the character’s growth but DC would rather cash in on the character’s popularity with multiple titles!
Judd Winick writer, Ben Oliver, Chrisscross, Dustin Nguyen and Marcus To artists
Someone (possibly Grant Morrison) either said that if there was a black Batman they could sell more comics or that it would be a good idea in diversifying their fictional universe. Regardless Morrison created a good character in David Zavimbe, an African policeman and former child slave in the fictional city of Tanisha in the Congo, who grew up to become the Batman of Africa. In real life many African orphans are forced to be child soldiers and/or slaves by African warlords so the story is quite topical. Whether the audience believes a black Batman is a genuine attempt at diversity or tokenism is irrelevant as this book had amazing writing in every issue and a high level of artwork throughout.
J. H. Williams and W. Haden Blackman writers, J. H. Williams, Amy Reeder and Trevor McCarthy artists
As a lesbian DC's Batwoman is a minefield of political incorrectness. If the creative team makes her too sexy they run the risk of being accused of pandering to straight men’s sexual fantasies and if they make her not sexy enough they run the risk of being accused of portraying lesbians as prudes. The creative team of this book has done an amazing job of making this character a proud lesbian and just another one of the girls, a strong confident woman who doesn’t rely on anyone but at the same time a loving person to be in a relationship with. Every issue’s writing is good tying into the character’s main arc and the artwork has a spooky edge suiting the tone of the stories well, the only problem is that this character is essentially not much more than a female Batman, but without the cave or car.
Birds of Prey
Duane Swierczynski writer, Jesus Saiz, Travel Foreman, Timothy Green, Cliff Richards and Romano Molenaar artists
The Birds of Prey were the team of the then wheelchair bound former Batgirl, Oracle and her field agents Huntress and Black Canary. Oracle is Batgirl once again but Huntress is no longer around (she’s part of an Earth 2 storyline with Power Girl but you don’t need to know that) so the team fills out its ranks with sassy Starling, deadly Katana and bad-girl Poison Ivy. This diverse group of women spend as much time fighting each other as they do the bad guys, Ivy even blackmails the team in a move no-one saw coming but which made perfect sense when it happened! The writing is witty and fast paced and the artwork is neat and dynamic. The book is a must read for no other reason that to see what the ladies will do next.
Mike Costa writer, Graham Nolan, Ken Lashley, Trevor McCarthy, Trevor Scott, Victor Ibanez, Cafu and Carlos Rodriguez artists
The Blackhawks were DC's heroic pilots of WWII, in the modern DCU they are now a team of black ops agents who undertake missions too dangerous for anyone else. The comic introduces some high tech concepts and gadgets that made this title a great sci-fi action story. The artwork is good and the writing is always solid despite some of the more out there sci-fi concepts, too bad it was cancelled after only eight issues!
Tony Bedard writer, Ig Guara and Marco Talcura artists
Blue Beetle is one of DC's characters who has an annoying and convoluted history, he’s actually the third guy to have this particular name but the first to have this unique set of powers but DC have wisely decided to drop the character’s messy history in favor of a fresh start. The new Blue Beetle is Jaime Reyes a Latino teenager who stumbles upon the self-aware alien beetle armor and because of his youth and inexperience falls victim to it’s manipulations while still trying to use it's power to do the right thing, it’s a good metaphor for the teenage condition. Reyes’s Hispanic heritage factors greatly into the story and is a superb example of ethnic diversity done well in comics. Every issue’s writing builds to the bigger picture and the artwork was action packed and suited the characters well. This is easily one of the New 52’s best titles.
J. T. Krul writer, Freddie Williams II artist
What's funny about this book is that Watchmen's Dr. Manhattan was originally based on Captain Atom now DC seem to be trying to make Captain Atom as much like Dr. Manhattan as possible. The artwork was decent but not great and the writing took an interesting look at how a man would cope with so much power. But the more metaphysical and philosophical the book got the more tedious and uninteresting it became to read.
Judd Winick writer, Guillem March and Adriana Melo artists
From a certain point of view DC's Catwoman is the polar opposite of Batwoman. Batwoman is meant to be everything a gay woman can be; Catwoman is meant to be everything a straight man wants a woman to be. So I was pleased to see Catwoman written as the sexy bad girl with a heart of gold. In the most interesting part of her story arc Catwoman steals a bag of what she believes is drug money that turns out to be dirty cop money sending the whole Gotham City Police Department after her! The writing was solid having the character bounce from one job to the next while still building to a larger outcome and the artwork makes Catwoman look like she’s striking a pose for the camera and still kicking ass. The one flaw is that the book has drawn inspiration from the not so impressive Batman Returns version of Catwoman and her origin is now that she was pushed off a roof and licked back to life by cats!
DC Universe Presents
James Robinson, Fabian Nicieza, Dan DiDio and Jerry Ordway writers, Bernard Chang, Jorge Jimenez, Dan DiDio and Jerry Ordway artists
This is an anthology series that focuses on characters that don't have their own titles. The first arc featured DC’s Deadman and gave us an in depth look at the supernatural side of the New 52 DCU. The second story arc featured the classic DC characters the Challengers of the Unknown, now reinvented as a reality TV show which is frankly a good idea in this day and age, but the story itself was as interesting as watching paint dry! The third story arc featured longtime DC asshole Vandal Savage and introduced his daughter, a human woman and FBI agent; readers may want to keep an eye on her as she may end up becoming an important character in future stories. The quality of the writing and artwork varied greatly depending in what team was working on the book and Dan DiDio CANNOT write!
Kyle Higgins and Rob Liefeld writers, Joe Bennett, Eduardo Pansica and Rob Liefeld artists
DC's Deathstroke is the character Boba Fett, the Terminator, Blade and Chuck Norris all wish they were; the ultimate badass! Deathstroke is Slade Wilson (Marvel's Wade Wilson aka Deadpool copied him not the other way around) a soldier, turned super soldier, turned mercenary. If only things had happened slightly differently Deathstorke might be a pop culture mainstay like Magneto or the Joker. In his New 52 storyline Deathstorke is reaching the end of his career and he wants to be remembered as history's greatest killer, the problem is every other day of the week he has to deal with some young hotshot looking to make a name for himself by taking him down. The artwork and writing for the first arc was incredible with every story developing the character and even though the second arc was brought to us by the craptacular Rob Liefeld it still kept my interest… that’s how good it is!
Paul Cornell writer, Diogenes Neves, Michael Choi, Robson Socha and Bernard Chang artists
Demon Knights is a new title from DC in that it didn’t exist before the New 52. The book takes some established medieval characters from DC, Vertigo and WildStorm and combines them with some new characters and sends them on a sword and sorcery odyssey. This book may seem unimportant at first glance as it uses only peripheral characters, but one of the problems with timelines of a large complex fictional universe is accounting for what happened in critical points in the past, Demon Knights fills in a lot of the New 52 timeline's gaps in creative and interesting ways allowing a larger, more complex and much more interesting DC Universe to emerge, so people who plan on following DC over the years will want to pay attention. So much credit goes to the writing that it’s easy to forget how thrilling the art was, this is one of the best books from the New 52.
Tony S Daniel writer, Tony S Daniel artist
There’s nothing that stands out in this the title for which DC was named, just a run of the mill series of Batman stories that don’t add anything important to the character or his world. The writing is competent and the art is quite good, so if you’re one of those people who buys a comic only for the pictures knock yourself out!
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
Jeff Lemire, Dan DiDio and Matt Kindt writers, Alberto Ponticelli artist
Back in 1980 DC had a comic named Creature Commandos about a team of monsters including a Frankenstein creature, a werewolf, a vampire and a gorgon as part of a secret super team in World War II. In the New 52 Dr. Frankenstein's creature is revealed to have been alive for centuries fighting evil wherever he found it in the world and in more recent times was recruited by a secret organization named S.H.A.D.E. (Super Human Advanced Defense Executive aka DC want their own S.H.I.E.L.D.) to defend mankind! The concept is wacky at best but it could be a really good idea if well executed. Unfortunately although some story arcs were very well written others were done in a clumsy half assed way but the artwork was always a satisfying mix of action and horror. This is a really great take on a well loved character from literature just as Marvel's Thor is a good take on a mythological character.
J. T. Krul, Keith Griffen and Ana Nocenti writers, Dan Jurgens and Harvey Tolibao artists
At the time that the New 52 relaunch was in the works Warner Bros. was planning a brand new TV show based on DC’s Golden Age super-hero Green Arrow. This is what poets call serendipity, when events in real life line up so perfectly it seems like the plan of some divine being, so it was a pretty big disappointment when it turned out that the new Green Arrow comic was vastly inferior to the TV show! Although the writing and art were always good and every issue was part of the overall plot with no filler it wasn’t an interesting story, it felt more like sci-fi than a tough guy righting wrongs. The one good thing this title has brought is the introduction of the new character Starlight, identical triplet sisters with a single mind, who is to GA what Catwoman is to Bats.
Geoff Johns writer, Doug Mahnke, Renato Guerdes and Jim Calafiore artists
Hal Jordan is DC’s Silver Age Green Lantern and one of their core heroes. There’s actually been quite a lot of different Lanterns which confuse people greatly, so the best thing to do would have been to drop all of GL’s confusing history for a fresh start. Instead DC has imported almost all of GL’s stories from the old DCU aside from the Golden Age GL Alan Scott who is no longer part of this particular timeline (he’s part of the Earth 2 timeline but you don’t need to know that). The writing makes the character’s long and complex history quite clear giving readers only as much back story as they need to know with no filler issues and the artwork style is always top shelf quality! The zero issue introduced the character of Simon Baz, a Muslim American, wrongly accused of being a terrorist, he's a new modern Green Lantern for modern times and hopefully the writers will use the character's race and problems with homeland security to explore current issues in the United States.
Green Lantern Corps
Peter J Tomasi writer, Fernando Pasarin, Geraldo Borges and Claude St Austin artists
GL Corps is the slightly more interesting book because it follows DC’s GL Corps on their home planet Oa, showing how they think and function as a military organization and also shows how both the corps and the personal lives of members John Stewart and Guy Gardener on Earth suffer because of their long absences fighting bad guys in space. The writing is always good and the art is great even making loudmouth Guy Gardener cool! I can’t believe the day has come when GL titles are outselling Superman!
Green Lantern New Guardians
Tony Bedard writer, Tyler Kirkham, Tomas Giorello and Aaron Kuder artists
At one point in the old DCU all the Green Lanterns were dead and the last power ring was given to a young dude named Kyle Rayner. The fact that Rayner was stricken with self doubt when a Lantern’s greatest strength is his will and that Rayner had no-one to turn to for help made for some very interesting storytelling. Nowadays the GL Corps are all back but DC still want Rayner in the stories, so his new gimmick is that he can operate any color power ring (yes there are other color power rings… long story)! The art is good and the writing is competent but the overall story is so long and drawn out I needed super-heroic willpower of my own to get through it!
Nathan Edmondson, Rob Liefeld and Frank Tieri writers, Cafu, Scott Clark and Daniel Sampere artists
Grifter is one of WildStorm’s characters created by Jim Lee for his creator-owned book WildC.A.T.S, now that the WildStorm universe has been assimilated into the DC Universe Grifter crosses paths with the likes of Green Arrow. The story itself wasn't all that good, the character is a former special ops badass who is kicked out of the army for the cliché of being a renegade who plays by his own rules, after being a grifter for a while (hence the name) he conveniently gets superpowers that allow him to see evil aliens in human form. The story would have been much better if the aliens he claimed he could see were all in his head! The artwork was competent but the writing was far fetched and ridiculous, Rob Liefeld was involved!
Hawk and Dove
Sterling Gates and Rob Liefeld writers, Marat Mychaels and Rob Liefeld artists
The most important thing anyone would ever need to know about this title is that Rob Liefeld worked on it and anything Liefeld touches turns to crap! Liefeld has been involved with other titles in the New 52 but it seems that he was given much more creative freedom here unfortunately! Hawk and Dove are Silver Age DC siblings empowered by the gods of war and peace. The writing took the story nowhere and the art was terrible, thankfully it was cancelled after only eight issues!
Joshua Hale Fialkov writer, Andrea Sorrentino artist
And now for something special and different, imagine a vampire story worthy of Anne Rice but part of the regular DC Universe! I, Vampire is a Silver Age DC comic brought back for the New 52, it's the story of Andrew Bennet a six hundred year old vampire and father of all modern vampires who isn't evil and now walks the earth slaying the vampires he’s brought into the world and his enemy is his evil former lover Mary the queen of vampires. The writing was solid throughout with every issue contributing to the ongoing plot and character development the art was consistent but a little weird. It may sound like another run of the mill softcore erotic vampire novel, but this was a compelling action horror story that crosses over with other magic based heroes of the DC Universe.
Geoff Johns writer, Jim Lee, Carlos D'Anda, Gene Ha and Gary Frank artists
Now the big one! The Justice League America or JLA was the team made up of DC's biggest characters, for the New 52 relaunch they've dropped the "America" part. Justice League's first story arc happens in the New 52 timeline's first year before jumping to the fifth year when all the other New 52 stories happen. We learn that in this new timeline the Justice Society of America, who were the heroes of WWII and precursors to the modern era Justice League America, never existed so from the point of view of the common man living in the DCU this is the first time super-heroes are working together in public, even though other super-heroes have existed behind the scenes for a long time. DC is trying to make their heroes more contemporary and have people react to them with fear and skepticism the way real people would if gods and aliens started brawling in the streets tomorrow, so in this New 52 universe, people generally don't trust super-heroes! Although it's not mentioned in Wonder Woman's own comic, Steve Trevor is the first man she ever met and is now the head of A.R.G.U.S. (Advanced Research Group Uniting Super-humans aka DC REALLY want a S.H.I.E.L.D.) who monitor and deploy the Justice League as their field agents (DC have made Steve Trevor as much like Nick Fury as possible which is OK since Marvel have made Norman Osborne as much like Lex Luthor as possible)! One of the problems with old school DC is that the Justice League are all white and current DC wanted a black character for the team, so they dropped Martian Manhunter even though he’s been in every incarnation of the league to date and promoted former Teen Titan Cyborg to the big league no pun intended. There are some good moments like when the heroes meet for the first time they're surprised to find out that Batman has no super powers! But the changes to the characters sometimes take away what made them likeable in the first place, for example Billy Batson is now a teenager and frankly a bit of an asshole! The book was well written with large self contained story arcs and incredible artwork from Jim Lee, but the stories felt like spectacle for spectacle’s sake and not important chapters that will define the New 52 Universe.
Justice League Dark
Peter Milligan and Jeff Lemire writers, Mikel Janin artist
To start with, this team is Justice League in name only, DC probably thought it would be an easier sell than a more appropriate title! This book teams up many established magic based heroes from DC, Vertigo and WildStorm. The best part is that this is one of the few titles in the New 52 where continuity is used well; for instance the immortal Madame Xanadu is a part of this team in the present and Demon Knights in the past and some events from Demon Knights have an impact on JL Dark. The artwork was great throughout the run and the writing was good with every story building to part of the bigger picture and no standalone stories that can be missed. I prefer to have a group of interesting yet obscure characters in one book than for each one to have their own title that gets cancelled.
Justice League International
Dan Jurgens writer, Aaron Lopresti artist
The story is what you’d expect, a team of diverse characters learning to work together to overcome personal issues and prejudices and achieve a common goal; that said it was nothing special. The book is a perfect example of how all the individual components can be well made but the sum total doesn't work; the writing and art were all consistently of high caliber but the story itself didn't make me care about the team. The worst part is that this book has turned the character of August General In Iron, an old JLA foe and leader of a Chinese super team, into a cheap knockoff of the Fantastic Four's Thing.
Fabian Nicieza writer, Pete Woods artist
A few members of the classic DC team of the 31st century, the Legion of Super-Heroes, have traveled back in time to capture a dangerous fugitive and are now trapped in the past. The hero of the team is Timber Wolf who is to Wolverine what Moon Knight is to Batman! It’s the standard heroes chasing a bad guy while on the run themselves adventure with culture clash comedy added! The writing and art were consistently good but readers can miss many issues and still not loose the plot, so it was mostly unnecessary.
Legion of Super-Heroes
Paul Levitz writer, Francis Portela, Walter Simonson, Steve Lightie, Yildiray Cinar and Scott Kolins artists
The Flashpoint storyline that erased the DC, Vertigo and Windstorm timelines somehow didn’t affect the 31st Century of the regular DC timeline and it turns out that all the Legion of Super-Heroes continuity is continuing as though nothing has happened, WHICH MAKES NO SENSE! The writing and art were solid but the storyline was pretty standard, aliens invade, heroes fight back, rescues are made, couples argue, best watch Star Trek instead!
Men of War
Ivan Brandon, Jonathan Vankin, B. Clay Moore, Matt Kindt, John Arcudi, James Robinson, J.T. Krul and Jeff Lemire writers, Tom Derenick, Paul Winslade, Paul McCaffrey, Patrick Scherberger, Richard Corben and Scott Kolins artists
In the same way that All Star Western is a look at the Wild West heroes of the DC Universe Men of War is a look at it’s war heroes like Sgt Rock, but whereas Jonah Hex is the main hero of All Star Western, Men of War is an anthology series with no primary character with an arc we can follow. In a fictional universe where human heroes have sci-fi technology and magic a series of stories about regular soldiers seems kind of pointless. The art and writing varied greatly from one creative team to another in some cases being adequate and in others being absolutely terrible!
Eric Wallace writer, Gianluca Gugliotta and Olivier Nome artists
Mr. Terrific's gimmick is that he's the third smartest man in the world, the other two presumably being Batman and Lex Luthor, which kind of makes the character pointless, we've already got a super smart good guy, so who cares? Besides he's basically a black Batman without the bat gimmick and we already have a black Batman with the Bat gimmick! The writing and art were consistently decent but the overall plotline went nowhere and the book was cancelled before the year's first run to no-one's surprise.
Kyle Higgins and Tom Defalco writers, Eddy Burrows, Andes Guinaldo and Trevor McCarthy artists
In DC Comics there have been several people who’ve partnered with Batman as Robin the first, Dick Grayson, grew up to became Nightwing. DC have carried across most of Nightwing’s history to the New 52 but they’ve changed some of the details. Grayson’s parents were now killed when he was a teenager and he was sent to the Gotham City orphanage and did not live at Wayne Manor as Bruce Wayne’s ward but instead was given a part time job working for Wayne (it would seem that in this day and age a single man adopting a teenage boy is a little too pedophilic)! Wayne never intended for Grayson to become his partner but Grayson made a Robin costume out of spare Batman costume parts so apparently Batman has some spare red and green Christmas themed costumes in the cave! In New 52 continuity Grayson was only Robin for a short time before becoming Nightwing. The art was really good throughout but the writing was mediocre and pitted Nightwing against some forgettable villains, the only redeeming factor is we get to see Grayson inherit the circus his parents worked for and what he does with it which suits the character well.
Dan DiDio and Keith Giffen writers, Dan DiDio and Keith Giffen artists
O.M.A.C. (One Man Army Corps) was DC's satellite weapon system in orbit that could send power to a human warrior on the surface. The concept was given an update as the rogue creation of Batman that had taken on a life of it's own in the Infinite Crisis storyline from DC several years before the New 52. This new O.M.A.C. (which now stands for One Machine Attack Construct) has a lot more in common with old school DC's O.M.A.C. and both the story and writing were terrible, truly terrible, reading this is like eating a bowl of plaster thinking it's porridge, you're expecting something bland, but what you get is much worse! After this crap was cancelled Dan DiDio did an O.M.A.C. story in DC Universe Presents entitled "Origins Matter After Cancellation!" because some people don't know when to quit!
Red Hood and the Outlaws
Scott Lobdell writer, Kenneth Rocafort artist
Red Hood started out as Jason Todd the second guy to be Robin and I get the impression that someone at DC thought that he’d be an easy sell so they gave him his own book and that they decided to tag Starfire and Arsenal with him since they didn't have anywhere else to stick these characters! But the team up makes little sense, Arsenal and Starfire have more history with Nightwing than Red Hood. The artwork in this book has consistently been top quality and the writing had many good story arcs such as filling in the missing gaps in this new continuity from the time Todd was resurrected to where he is now, but there are many terrible stories such as a reworking of Todd's origin; in the current timeline it was the Joker who orchestrated that Jason Todd would become an orphan, meet Batman and become the new Robin, so that he could kill him just to give Batman the middle finger! So for every strength the book has there seems to be a corresponding weakness. An interesting side note is that when Starfire was introduced in the comics she was a very sexual character but was changed to a childish thirteen year old for the sake of the Teen Titans TV show, now she’s back to her former self and all the pseudo feminists on the internet are all up in arms about how a "child" is being depicted as a sexualized woman!
Peter Milligan writer, Ed Benes, Andres Guinaldo, Jorge Jimenez, Tomas Giorello, Miguel Sepulveda and Aidian Syaf artists
Sometime back DC did a Green Lantern storyline where they introduced the Red Lanterns who take their power from rage just as the Green Lanterns take their power from will, someone at DC decided that since the Green Lantern characters are selling well they should give the supporting cast characters their own title, there’s a reason why supporting cast characters are SUPPORTING CAST CHARACTERS! The book focuses on a gang of thugs who spend all day talking about how pissed off they are, so it’s bound to be a big hit with internet trolls. The art is decent but the writing takes the plot nowhere and has no impact whatsoever on the rest of the DC Universe!
Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning writers, Fernando Dagnino, Jesus Saiz, Javier Pina and Ramon Bachs artists
Resurrection Man is one of the comparatively new DC characters and has the most well planned story arc in the New 52. For the first year DC published twelve issues followed by special zero issue, Resurrection Man's arc was thirteen issue long with story revealing his origin in the final issue which is also the zero issue, so the story matched the publishing schedule perfectly. The story also integrated itself perfectly into the DCU, with the consequences of Resurrection Man's actions affecting the magic users, superheroes and sci-fi characters of the DCU. The artwork was decent but the writing constantly had me asking what he was going to do next so all in all a satisfying adventure, too bad it was canned!
Scott Mc Daniel, John Rozum and Marc Bernardin writers, Scott McDaniel artist
Many years ago a group of African American comic book creators decided to create a new comic book universe named Milestone which ended up becoming part of DC. The most successful and memorable character from Milestone was Static Shock, primarily because he once had his own TV show. The book was quite good and the character was genuinely likeable, with good art and writing throughout, but the problem was that DC kept so much of the character’s back story intact that his new series was hard to follow and was cancelled after only eight issues.
Paul Cornell, Paul Jenkins and Peter Milligan writers, Miguel Sepulveda, Al Barrionuevo, Ignacio Calero and Will Conrad artists
Back in the 1970s Jack “the King of Comics” Kirby’s decided a new mythology was needed and created the New Gods. Kirby’s ideas may have been imaginative for their time but it wasn’t until I read WildStorm Comics The Authority and Stormwatch that I got to see a real glimpse of what a comic book mythology relevant to modern times can be! Stormwatch has absorbed the Authority’s best characters and are now part of the New 52 DCU, the idea here is that the Justice League are heroes who operate publicly so from the point of view of the common man superheroes are a new phenomenon, but the dangers that the Justice League protect the world from have been menacing mankind since the dawn of civilization and it is Stormwatch who have been defending the human race this whole time from behind the scenes. For the most part comic book superheroes have not changed or developed at all in the last seventy years, they’re all either really strong, fast, smart, invulnerable, able to shape shift, teleport or shoot energy beams! But the heroes of Stormwatch are imaginative and use powers that other writers haven’t thought of; their leader is Adam One a being born as an old man at the end of the universe and who will age backwards with time and during his long life has been Merlin of Camelot, Jack Hawksmoore who can communicate with the collective awareness generated by each individual city, Jenny Quantum the living embodiment of the twenty first century and Emma Rice who can control the way data moves on the internet! Rice is the most exciting and badly underused character as an internet being is truly a superhero for our time and more should be done with her! The team also features Apollo and Midnighter who are analogues for Superman and Batman respectively and a gay couple which makes things interesting if you ever wondered what would happen if Batman and Superman hooked up! This is by far the best book of the New 52!
Adam Glass writer, Federico Dallocchio, Ransom Getty, Scott Hanna, Andrei Bressan, Cliff Richard's, Clayton Henry, Ig Guara, Fernando Dagnino and Carlos Rodriguez artists
The Suicide Squad is a team of established DC villains like Deadshot, Black Spider and King Shark who have already been caught, convicted and imprisoned but now given a chance at a full pardon on the condition that they agree to go on missions that are so dangerous the government dares not send anyone else. This has usually been Amanda Waller's team, and Waller is kind of like DC’s Samuel L. Blackson! The art was always good and matched the writing style which is surprising since they rotated through many artists but the excessive violence gets ridiculous and repetitive, but this book deserves a lot of credit for making the audience root for a team of bad guys. An interesting aspect to note is that whereas Waller has always been an overweight old woman, she's now a much slimmer athletic woman with an overweight mother, so it's possible the New 52's Amanda Waller is actually the daughter of the old DCU's Waller!
Scott Lobdell writer, R. B. Silva artist
There have actually been several Superboys in the old DCU the most relevant was a clone of Superman created by the insidious Project Cadmus, later retconned to a clone of Cadmus's director, later retconned again to a hybrid made from equal amounts of Superman and Lex Luthor's genes! In the New 52 Superboy is back to being a young clone of Superman, but in this universe there is no mention of Cadmus, he has instead been created by an organization called N.O.W.H.E.R.E. (and DC’s desire for a S.H.I.E.L.D. of their own is just getting ridiculous)! Caitlin Fairchild and Grunge, who were characters from WildStorm's Gen13, show up so it was nice to see they’re still alive and well so to speak! Also every character in this book seems to have a tattoo, no idea what that’s all about! The book was well written and the artwork was good but DC doesn’t have the character doing anything important in his own story or any other title he just seems to have been given a book so they could sell a title with a well known character.
Michael Green and Mike Johnson writers, Mahmud Asrar artist
Supergirl is one of the characters with the most convoluted history and DC have very wisely decided to disregard all of it for a back to basics approach with the character. The story is told from her point of view, one day she was babysitting her cousin Kal-El the next she's woken up on a planet where the yellow sun somehow gives her powers, she can't speak the language and Kal-El is now older than she is. A new villain Simon Tycho has been introduced who seems to have replaced Lex Luthor as the evil scientist/businessman which begs the question of why Luthor isn't being used more? The writing and art were competent throughout but she suffers from the exact same problem as Superboy which is the character is given nothing important to do in the DC Universe so it seems like she was only given her title because she’s a well known character who would sell well.
George Perez, Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens writers, Jesus Merino and Dan Jurgens artists
Unlike Action Comics that is telling stories from Superman's first year this title is set in the current time of the New 52 and DC has decided to make their characters and their situations more contemporary; the old Daily Planet building has been torn down to make way for the Daily Planet Plaza and Lois Lane has moved from print journalism to become a TV news producer. The book reintroduces Hellspont, a villain from the WildStorm Universe, as a Superman (or DCU) villain who introduces the concepts of the metagene, similar to Marvel's mutant X-gene which later become important in explaining why so many super-heroes are popping up. But many of the stories are only filler issues and not part of the ongoing plotline, that said the writing is of very high quality and so is the art both of which can be credited to Dan Jurgens who is to Superman what Frank miller is to Batman.
Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire writers, Yanick Paquette, Marco Rudy, Francesco Francavilla and Kano artists
Back in 1985 Alan Moore did an amazing run on Vertigo's Swamp Thing. A scientist named Alec Holland was doused in chemicals and fell into a swamp to emerge as a plant creature. The twist in the tale was that Swamp Thing had never been the man Alec Holland; it was a creature from the swamp who had somehow absorbed Holland's memories and only thought it was a person! The new story explains that the previous storyline has happened but that very little if anything from the old Swamp Thing’s life affects the new Swamp Thing. So why bother retaining the old continuity, why not make a fresh start? This is a perfect example of DC wanting to have their cake and eat it too, they want to restart their timeline but they want all the history! The writing suffers from all the same problems as Animal Man, long winded and pointless and the artwork is equally as macabre!
Scott Lobdell writer, Brett Booth artist
Tim Drake was the third guy to be Robin and although his name isn’t in the title this is by and far his book. In the New 52 timeline it has now been explained that although he was Batman's partner he was never actually Robin, he was instead Red Robin! Why on Earth this unnecessary and confusing change was made is anyone's guess. Drake was always the Robin who worked best solo but here he’s written as though he’s the first Robin Dick Grayson the natural born leader of the Teen Titans. Beast Boy and Cyborg have traditionally been part of the Titans but here they are no longer part of the team even though they have been seen in other New 52 books. Teen Titans have always been the DC Universe’s answer to the X-Men, a team of young heroes with superpowers and now it seems like DC wants to make them even more like the X-Men as they have introduced the concept of the metagene and has the government hunting them down like mutants on the run. The book has had an art style that suited its characters and it had good writing but for every interesting plotline there seemed to be a boring one.
Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato writers, Francis Manapul artist
Barry Allen aka the Flash is one of DC's Silver Age heroes who has been reinvented several times as such old school DC had quite a few heroes running around (pun intended) each calling himself the Flash! In the old DCU Mark Waid wrote the Flash comic for some time and changed the Flash's rogues gallery from a bunch of dorks who couldn't raid a cookie jar to a group of dangerous psychos who rivaled batman's own rogues gallery; but all that's been thrown out for a fresh start! Now the downside is that all the good work and character development of years past is gone including the diverse family of Flash characters, but the upside is that the fresh start has made the book very accessible to new readers. The writing was good with lots of character development, interesting plots and a great artwork style that suited the character, every story built to the overall journey of the character, more of the New 52's titles should have been done like this.
The Fury of Firestorm the Nuclear Man
Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver writers, Yildiray Cinar artist
Silver Age DC hero Firestorm the nuclear man was two separate guys who fused together to become a single being with nuclear energy powers, an idea that fitted well with the theme of nuclear fusion. In the New 52 Firestorm is now two separate guys who can become two separate super-heroes, so the character has lost his gimmick! Every other country in the world has their own firestorm and they all hate each other! The book is a good example of how a comic can have a consistent art style and every individual story being written as part of the ongoing plot and still be unreadable crap and was thankfully cancelled. In the final and unnecessary zero issue the character's powers were reworked to make him more like his classic DC self presumably to undo all the damage of this book!
The Savage Hawkman
Tony S Daniel writer, Philip Tan artist
Like Supergirl Hawkman, who is now apparently a savage, is one of those sad bastards from the old DCU with a very convoluted history, he’s been a winged alien, a wingless alien, an archeologist who gained powers and a former god. The idea with this new version of Hawkman was to have a fresh start and for a while it worked with Hawkman going back to being a human archeologist who gained superpowers through magical armor... except then Hawkwoman shows up and reveals he's actually from the planet Thanagar and we're back to square one with the confusing history so thanks very much DC! The worst part is that there were important revelations of the characters past that weren't even revealed in his own damn book, I had to find them out by reading issues of Deathstroke, Green Arrow and Wikipedia articles, WHEN YOUR READERS HAVE TO READ WIKIPEDIA TO UNDERSTAND YOUR BOOK YOU HAVE A PROBLEM! The art was good but the writing was terrible and what we learned around issue zero rendered the first twelve issues meaningless! Take him away!
Ron Marz and Josh Williamson writers, Sami Basri and Hendry Prasetya artists
Voodoo is another of one of Jim Lee's creations for his WildStorm imprint that has now been incorporated into the New 52 DCU. Voodoo is an evil shape shifting monster created by the evil alien Daemonites. Their creature has now gone renegade and is as much a danger to them as it is to humans and may blow their cover and worse the human woman from whom Voodoo was created has now escaped captivity and knows their plans and as a bonus to the male readers Voodoo's secret identity is a stripper! This was a highly enjoyable and kick ass read the art was very good and better than most DC books, the writing was solid throughout with every issue being relevant to the overall plot line, it's a shame it only lasted a year!
Brian Azzarello writer, Cliff Chiang artist
This is the biggest disappointment of the New 52, since her first Golden Age appearance DC's Wonder Woman was a baby girl sculpted from clay by Hippolyta the queen of the Amazons and given life by Hera the queen of the Greek gods, so in a sense Wonder Woman, a symbol of female empowerment, has two mothers and no father. She grew up in an all female environment to become the ambassador to man's world which would give her a unique perspective on gender politics. The New 52 Wonder Woman is the bastard child of Hippolyta and (wait for it) Zeus, so a big part of what made the character special has been thrown out. The writing takes almost all its ideas from Greek mythology which is good but mentions nothing of the rest of the DCU which is bad, the artwork was competent but did not sit well with Greek mythology ideas. Also she looks much taller and muscular here than she does in Justice League so the character is inconsistent. I found the whole of the first year's stories difficult to get through as I kept waiting for it to get good. This new Wonder Woman title is being written by people who haven't got a clue what made Wonder Woman special.
What DC seems to have gotten right are some basic changes to the way they handle their characters, in the old DC Universe Batman was the smart guy who could outthink anybody and he was also aware of what every intelligence agency or black ops outfit in the world knew, New 52 Batman is just not that smart, there’s a whole bunch of shenanigans below his radar, this means other characters have a chance to shine at the cost of Batman no longer dominating everyone else! DC is now making sure that their entire comic book universe is a lot more coherent, specific events that happen in one comic are sometimes seen in a completely different comic by a different creative team, for example Batman struck Nightwing in Batman issue 7 but that same scene was also part of Nightwing issue 7.
Aside from the storytelling, which should always come before all else, DC has also made their characters more visually contemporary, Superman has the most well known superhero costume in the world and his costume is badly outdated with the underwear on the outside because the original superhero costumes were based on 1930's circus performers. The costumes of the superheroes in the New 52 seem to be based more on sci-fi and videogames, Superman’s costume for instance looks more like something out of Mass Effect than the circus. Batman and the Flash now wear armor, Wonder Woman is no longer wearing the designs of the US flag and Superman and Aquaman now have cuffs and collars for some reason.
What DC seems to have gotten wrong is only making a fresh start in some cases, for Superman they’ve wiped the slate clean and have a new take on the character relevant to modern times, but with Batman and Green Lantern all the baggage of their continuities have been brought across with them. This would have been the perfect opportunity for a new beginning to Green Lantern’s and Robin’s respective timelines and have only one definitive version of each character as they’ve done with the Flash. In the New 52 Bart Allen is the Kid Flash and Cassie Sandsmark is Wonder Girl but we have no idea where Wally West and Donna Troy are or if they even exist in the New 52 and we can’t be sure if any Titan teams have existed before the current one. Now since Barbara Gordon has gone back to being Batgirl it would have been simpler and less convoluted to say that she had always been Batgirl and had never been shot by the Joker, paralyzed and then gotten better. The problem is that DC want a new start but at the same time they want to be able to say that some of their most famous stories like The Killing Joke (where Barbara Gordon was paralyzed) or A Death in the Family (where the second Robin was killed) are still in continuity! DC also want to be able to have a Teen Titans lineup but without taking the time to develop the characters or introduce them into the New 52 DC Universe organically. They want to have their cake and eat it too!
Unlike Marvel, DC has always had a reputation of being a place where the talent were given a lot of creative freedom, unfortunately the downside of that was that one writer at DC would craft a story establishing events and circumstances as canon and editorial would let a different writer create a new story that would contradict the existing story years, sometimes only a few months later. However since the launch of the New 52 there have been numerous reports of DC’s top writers fighting openly with DC’s editorial. Currently Bob Harras is DC’s Editor in Chief, Dan DiDio and Jim Lee are Co-Publishers and Geoff Johns is the company’s Chief Creative Officer. So far several of DC’s longtime top talents like George Perez and Ron Marz (as well as their top no talents like Rob Liefeld) have either left or been fired from their books. Now I have heard a lot of who was fired or quit and who did the firing and most of the people concerned have made their opinions well known online BUT (and this is a big but) all of this amounts to nothing more than gossip, I wasn’t there so I can’t tell who was in the wrong, it’s possible some of the writers were out of line, unfortunately it’s also possible that the editors are the monsters they’ve been made to look like. But the bottom line and my point is that despite the New 52 DC Universe is vastly more coherent and well structured than it was before, so even though I’ve heard terrible things about the editorial from the point of view of a consumer buying a product I believe that the company is making good decisions.
Unfortunately all good things eventually come to an end, we’re currently at a high point in DC’s publishing history but we’ve seen high points before only to be followed by massive a drop in product quality and sales. But the good thing about collecting comics is you can always revisit the best runs and I have a feeling I’ll be coming back to this first year of New 52 DC quite often.