If you’ve ever been interested in getting into comics, but weren’t quite sure where to start or were intimidated by the convoluted histories involved, now’s your chance to change all that. Over the next five weeks DC will be launching 52 new books designed to appeal to new readers. These comics will feature some of the most talented creators working in the industry, telling updated stories starring some of DC’s best known (and a few obscure favorites) heroes. The wave of new titles is a lot even for experienced fans, so here’s a quick run-down of the first two weeks worth of offerings and my picks for standout titles to check out.
August 31st, Week 1: The relaunch starts slow as DC is only releasing two books this week, Flashpoint #5, which is the final book of the old universe, and, more importantly, Justice League #1, the first book of new DC Universe (DCnU).
If you’re only going to try one book out the entire 52, Justice League has got to be the book to go with. Writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee are considered by most to be the best that DC has to offer, if not the best in the industry. Added to DC’s top creative talent, this book also features DC best known heroes, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman and several others doing what they do best. This is going to be THE flagship title for DC and they’re putting all their muscle into ensuring that it’s going to be a success. Even though I’m not a huge fan of the talent or most of the characters, I’m pretty sure this is going to be a book well worth reading, so I’ll be picking it up. If you’re at all interested in DC’s new effort, I suggest you do the same.
September 7th, Week 2: The relaunch starts for real with a full slate of titles this week. DC is coming out with guns blazing this time around. I think this is the strongest week of the entire month. Almost every single one of the books coming out during this week seems worthy of checking out. Here’s a look at them.
Action Comics #1: This is going to be the week’s “must-read” title. It launches the new, younger, non-married version of Superman. Grant Morrison is writing this one with Rags Morales on art. If Geoff Johns isn’t DC’s top writer, it’s probably Morrison. His 12-issue “All-Star Superman” is widely hailed as one of the best Superman stories of all time, so it will be interesting to see where he goes with this one now that he’s got a completely clean slate to work with.
Animal Man #1: This is one of the “obscure favorites” I mentioned above. Grant Morrison (If you’re new to comics, get used to hearing that name a lot.) had a groundbreaking run on the character back in the 80s. This gave an otherwise unremarkable character a huge amount of credibility that still continues to this day. Now writer Jeff Lemire, best-known for his own work on the animal-related book Sweet Tooth, is taking on the character to give it his own spin.
Batgirl #1: This one is actually a somewhat controversial book in the comics community. The role of Batgirl is being filled by Barbara Gordon, who had worn the costume before she was shot and paralyzed by the Joker in 1988′s classic graphic novel, The Killing Joke. Since then the wheelchair-bound Barbara had made a name for herself as Oracle, the information broker and hacker supreme for heroes of the DCU. She also served as a role model to a vocal section of the comic book community, who aren’t taking the rewriting of comic book history and her return to full mobility lightly. But much of the fan-imosity is tempered by the fact that Gail Simone is writing this one. Simone is one of the (very) few well-known and well-respected female writers in the industry and has a justly-earned reputation as a voice for diversity in comics.
Batwing #1: Africa finally gets its own superhero! One. For the entire continent. Well, unless you count Congorilla or B’wana Beast… Writer Judd Winick and artist Ben Oliver have a lot to work with here, I’m going to pick it up and see what they’ve got to offer.
Detective Comics #1: This is how I knew DC was serious about this whole endeavor. If they’re willing to reset a book that has been going since 1937 (the longest continually running comic in the US), I’m going to sit up and take notice. Writer/artist Tony Daniel had been doing a great job on his Batman book over the last few months and it doesn’t look like he’s slowing down anytime soon. If you’re a fan of Batman comics or want to become one, this is the book for you. After Action Comics #1, this is probably the week’s best bet.
Green Arrow #1: DC’s resident left-leaning-superhero is the owner of a multinational corporation who uses his resources, both legal and not-so, to fight crime around the globe. Writer JT Krul had previous experience doing the series before the reset, so he knows the character well. Iron Man with a bow instead of a suit of armor? I’m intrigued.
Hawk & Dove #1: The warrior Hawk and the peaceful Dove share an uneasy crime-fighting partnership. This is probably the book I’m most unsure about and that’s mainly because of artist Rob Liefeld. I’ve never been a fan of his infamous style of art. However, I’m taking a lot of chances on new books, so I may give him, and by extension, writer Sterling Gates, the benefit of the doubt.
Justice League International #1: The second Justice League doesn’t have quite the same star-power as the main JL book, working on the book (Dan Jurgen writes, while Aaron Lopresti draws) or the page (Booster Gold, Ice, Vixen, Rocket Red…). Though it does have Batman! That’s got to count for something, right? Seriously, the lower profile characters and more global nature of the team could make for an interesting dynamic. Plus, the creative team has to know they’re going to be in the shadow of the main JL title, which should drive them to ensure that JLI stands out as something special and not just the B-list version.
Men of War #1: This one appears to be an updated version of the old Sgt. Rock comic. Instead of fighting Nazis in war-torn Europe, Rock and his brothers-in-arms of Easy Company are a team of private military contractors. I was a huge Sgt. Rock fan growing up and I dig the concept, so I’ll definitely be picking this one up. I’m quite interested to see where this book goes with this angle. It seems like it has the potential to be a much needed break from the wall-to-wall superhero books that dominate the market. DC has said they want to broaden the scope of their books and this could be proof of their intentions.
O.M.A.C. #1: This is another old-school title that’s being dusted-off and updated for the modern age. A young man finds himself caught up between warring espionage societies. This is another one I’m not too sure on. DC Co-publisher Dan Dido is co-writing with Keith Giffen, who is also working on the art.
Static Shock #1: This is the book I’m looking forward to most out of the entire relaunch. I’ve been a huge fan of Static (the original name of the character, the “Shock” was added as part of his rebirth as an afternoon cartoon) since his first appearance at Milestone back in the early 90s. His title, along with Milestone’s other offerings, were some of the first books that prompted me go out of my way to find them. Before that I’d just buy whatever comics happened to be on the spinner rack at the drugstore, but Static changed all of that. So the character has always had a special place in my heart. I was very excited to see that he’s (finally!) getting his own ongoing series again. This excitement only grew when I saw that John Rozum (who also worked for Milestone back in the day, on a criminally unappreciated gem of a book called Xombi, which coincidentally just finished a new six-issue run this month) was going to be co-writing it along with the series’ artist Scott McDaniels
Stormwatch #1: This book used to be published by Jim Lee’s Wildstom imprint before being purchased by DC. It’s safe to say that this title was one of the most influential books of the late 90s/early 00s. Writer Warren Ellis turned a group of cardboard spandex-clad cliches into a dynamic, action-packed group, the effects of his work on the title are still being felt throughout superhero comics today. I doubt anyone is going to be able to approach the revolutionary story-telling that Ellis brought to the book, but it’ll be worth checking out just to see how these characters are integrated into the DCnU.
Swamp Thing #1: This is another title that will never live up to the bar that has been set for it. Alan Moore revolutionized mature story-telling in comics with his work on the character back in the 80s. His efforts paved the way for DC to create their mature-audiences oriented imprint, Vertigo. Now Scott Snyder is stepping up to the plate to try and fill those rather large shoes. Snyder is no slouch though. His work on American Vampire and recent efforts on Detective Comics have impressed a lot of people. I know I’ve seen enough to pick this one up. It seem like Snyder is going to bring his skill at horror/mystery writing to bear on this book. Both genres are a natural fit for the monthly publishing model of comics, but have been sorely neglected in modern times.