DC Comics, the outfit that puts out Superman, Batman and so many other super-hero comics is re-starting its line today. They're not exactly calling it a re-boot, but when you cancel almost all of your super-hero comics and start rolling out 52 new series over the course of a month, you might as well call it a great jumping on point.
So which of DC's new 52 would I, Kotaku's comics guy, recommend?
I've read none of the, 52 yet, but I've read comics avidly for years and have followed news of the new 52 closely. Today, I'll give you a guide of which ones I think will be superb, which at least have a chance to be, and which will likely stink. Then, through the month of September,I'll read them all and let you know how they squared with my expectations.
Do note that all of these comics are first issues, but many of them will pick up on storylines established for the characters in recent years. That's specifically the case for the Batman and Green Lantern books, which, not coincidentally are DC's two most popular lines. Others, like Superman, are getting an overhaul.
All of these comics will be available in comics shops and in the online ComiXology shop (PC, iOS, Android) on the same day, with the rollout spanning the Wednesday, August 31, for the first book, Justice League, and following with four Wednesdays in September with a dozen or so books each.
Here we go…..
These should be very good
August 31 Books...
Justice League Many will get this for the artist, Jim Lee, but I'm getting it for the writer, Geoff Johns, whose super-hero writing, while occasionally needlessly gory, feels consistently grand and imaginative. Johns excels at world-building, populating his comics with diverse casts of likeable characters and threading their adventures with as many subplots as a complex TV drama. For this one, he's telling the tale of a team of DC's most iconic super-heroes. [Read our sister site io9's interview with Johns and Lee.]
September 7 Books…
Stormwatch This one weaves a team from the now-shuttered Wildstorm super-hero universe into DC proper, with the iconic Justice League hero Martian Manhunter added to the team. But that's not why this is a must-by. That reason is writer Paul Cornell who has spun wonderful yarns at DC and Marvel of late and is now telling the tale of Stormwatch, a team of behind-the-scenes people with extraordinary powers who are rather ticked off when all these gaudy DC super-heroes start popping up in their world.
Action Comics Writer Grant Morrison is an automatic buy for me and is considered one of the best writers of comics in the medium's history. Here, this all-time great re-launches the book that birthed Superman, beginning his run with a tale of the Man of Steel's early days as a hero. Superman will begin as sort of a Bruce Springsteen of super-heroes, as the writer has put it—a working man's champ.
Swamp Thing The odds are that this comic will be inferior to Alan Moore's legendary run about a swamp monster who alternately violently and poetically explores the nature of nature and humanity. But rising star Scott Snyder is writing this, and Snyder has been just about perfect in his recent runs on Detective Comics and the ongoing American Vampire. He says Swamp Thing is his other favourite character (besides Batman), so even he must be putting the pressure on. I think he'll make something special here.
September 14 Books...
Demon Knights Writer Paul Cornell rounds up Etrigan the Demon and a bunch of other magical characters for what is essentially a medieval Justice League. Superb.
Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. The ever improving Jeff Lemire returns to a character he just wrote superbly in a mini-series this summer in this new book that puts Frankenstein, a special agent of sorts, on a quest to discover who each of his body parts came from.
Green Lantern DC's lead writer, Geoff Johns, keeps his very good years-long Green Lantern saga going, but now long-time Lantern bad-guy Sinestro as the Green Lantern and long-time hero Hal Jordan is out of work. An intriguing plot twist.
September 21 Books…
Legion of Super-Heroes For what seems like the 30th time we get a re-start of the Legion of Super-Heroes comics, one of my guilty pleasures. Let's hope that writer Paul Levitz's ongoing saga about 30th century super-heroes is minimally hampered by this forced re-numbering. It doesn't sound like his long-running storylines are going to be invalidated, which is nice.
Batman Writer Scott Snyder's back on Batman after an acclaimed run with the Dick Grayson version of the character on Detective Comics. Snyder prefers to write his Batman stories with grit and a high amount of mystery. He's right for this character and this book. Expect high quality. Long-time Spawn artist Greg Capullo will draw this, making Batman one of the higher-profile art assignments of this new 52, to boot.
Wonder Woman My only worry about this one is that writer Brian Azzarello's run a few years ago on Superman was far inferior to his high-standard work on 100 Bullets. He's not a fan of super-heroes, but I trust he's got something good planned for Wonder Woman and will be capably supported by the superbly-drafted art of Cliff Chiang. Azzarello is hot off an excellent run on a Batman book, so maybe he's warming to these heroes after all. Oddly, he has described his Wonder Woman as a horror book.
September 28 Books…
Aquaman Writer Geoff Johns made people care about Green Lantern again. Same with the Justice Society. But his recent Flash revival seemed pointless. Now he tries to build up the frequently-cancelled Aquaman, aided by the impressively detailed artistry of Ivan Reis and Joe Prado.
These might be good
September 7 Books…
Animal Man The relatively new writer Jeff Lemire revives the family-man super-hero popularised by Grant Morrison. This time, Lemire's promising a horror take. Lemire's work on Vertigo's Sweet Tooth and his own Essex Country Trilogy have earned raves, but he'll be working in the shadow of one of Morrison's best works, something no other Animal Man writer has successfully escaped.
Men of War I'm getting a Call of Duty-wannabe vibe from the naming and marketing of this book, but writer Ivan Brandon has been cagey enough about this war comic's real premise to keep me intrigued. It stars a modern Sgt. Rock and his crew in some sort of military operations that might involve super-villains.
Batgirl Barbara Gordon spent the last couple of decades of comics publishing history confined to a wheelchair, forced by a bullet from the Joker's gun. Crippled but defiant, she began assisting super-heroes as the intelligence mastermind Oracle. Scratch that. They're letting her walk again, as writer Gail Simone launches this new series and, hopefully, justifies what some are seeing as a backwards move for this popular character.
Batwing A book about the "Batman of Africa", which makes me cringe when I hear that one of the first villains is a guy with a machete called Massacre, but writer Judd Winick has been writing some good super-hero comics lately, and, you know, the concept could be good.
Hawk and Dove On the plus side, this book about a pair of heroes with diametrically opposed views of life is written by the under-rated Sterling Gates, whose last DC work was a surprisingly superb run on Supergirl. On the maybe-minus side, the artist is Rob Liefeld, whose grasp of anatomy is as limited as his early-90's fame for co-founding Image Comics was high.
Justice League International Another book in the shadow of a beloved one of the same name from the past, JLI will present a UN-sanctioned team of the world's top B-list super-heroes (plus Batman). Writer Dan Jurgens handles, which means Booster Gold's the star and that the quality of the storylines could go either way.
O.M.A.C. Comics veteran Keith Giffen is one of my favourite artists, but I know his blocky Jack Kirby style turns some fans off. I'll drool over each page of this comic about a guy who gets caught up in some high-tech sci-fi war, but I'm worried that the book's writer, DC Comics co-publisher Dan Didio, will sink this title. His writing has been consistently terrible. Let's hope Giffen, whose dense, experimental writing I love is really co-writing this, as billed. Hell, just give him the whole book.
Static Shock This book stars the lone character from the early-90s Milestone line who has so far been incorporated into the new DC Universe. While he could easily be written off as an affirmative action addition to support DC's admirable attempt to diversify the cast of its comics, the presence of co-writer John Rozum excites me. Static may be black, but he's also the closest DC has to a wise-cracking teenage Spider-Man type. Under the authorship of the imaginative Rozum, good things might happen here, as they have in earlier Static comics.
September 14 Books...
Batman and Robin Pete Tomasi is one of those hot-and-cold writers whose best work makes me want to put this in the must-buy category, but his work on a previous incarnation of this book a year ago was forgettable. He has good material to work with, though: he's telling stories about Bruce Wayne as Batman and bratty son Damian Wayne as Robin.
Batwoman Thanks to J. H. Williams III, there will probably be the best-looking book of the new 52, but my worry is the writing, by Willams and W. Haden Blackman which is an entirely unproven commodity for me.
Deathstroke I want to just roll my eyes at DC's revival of its ultimate bounty hunter as some badassest villain, but I'm holding out some hope that Kyle Higgins, whose recent co-written Gates of Gotham I liked, has something special planned.
Legion Lost A bunch of DC's 30th century Legion of Super-Heroes characters are stuck in the 20th century, which, despite my limited enthusiasm for writer Fabian Nicieza's work, is a concept I can get on board with.
Mister Terrific I'm rooting for this series about the world's third-smartest man and his brand of high-tech super-heroics, but I don't know… we'll see.
Resurrection Man It's a series about a guy who gets new super-powers every time he comes back to life. Of course it might be good!
Superboy This is a weird one. Long-time Marvel writer Scott Lobdell plans to emphasise Superboy's, uh, clone-ness, while teasing that the hero will be the villain of Lobdell's Teen Titans book. Very strange, but maybe good?
September 21 Books...
Birds of Prey The concept of this revived series is once again the adventures of a female hero team operating in Gotham City. Black Canary is among the crew, but the notable name here is Duane Swierczynski, a mystery novelist who DC is hyping for writing this book.
Blue Beetle I've enjoyed most of writer Tony Bedard's under-rated writing, and now those who ignored his magnificent sci-fi book R.E.B.E.L.S. can and should at least sample this new series about a teenager who can wear armour meant to serve as an alien race's weapon of mass destruction.
DC Universe Present It's an anthology of sorts, with rotating characters and creators, so who knows. The first run will be about cult favourite hero Deadman, the super-hero who is pretty much just a ghost. His story is being written by Paul Jenkins who recently lowered my hopes by bragging about how little research he does into existing characters before writing them.
Green Lantern Corps Writer Peter Tomasi returns to the series he wrote so well for years. We've got an intergalactic crew of Green Lanterns, with the irritable Guy Gardner and the planet-killing John Stewart in featured roles. This would be a can't miss, if Tomasi's most recent Green Lantern comic, Emerald Warriors hadn't been a mess of missed opportunities.
Nightwing I'd be more excited about writer Kyle Higgins' new Nightwing series if I wasn't so disappointed that hero Dick Grayson no longer gets to be Batman, which he was the for the past two years. I like the weird concept, though, of Dick splitting his super-heroing with some sort of commitment to a travelling circus.
September 28 Books…
All-Star Western I've heard much high praise for writers Justin grey and Jimmy Palmiotti's now-cancelled Jonah Hex Western. This new book brings Hex into the Wild West of the DC Universe, which will either help the character or botch it.
Flash The recent revival of Barry Allen as the Flash, replacing his former replacement Wally West, irked fans who read Wally through the 80's and 90's. The change in lead character still seems unnecessarily antagonistic to the readership, but artist Francis Manapul does draw a great Flash. Now he gets to co-write the book, which, well, it's too early to say if that helps or hurts.
The Fury of the Firestorm How appropriate that a super-hero whose alter-ego is comprised of two people who collectively control the Nuclear Man will be written by two writers, Ethan van Sciver and Gail Simone. They're teasing some sort of multi-Firestorm book, which sounds Green Lantern Corps-ish to me. I'm intrigued.
Green Lantern: New Guardians See my scolding re: the writing of Tony Bedard in the Blue Beetle entry above. In this other sci-fi book, he's got Green Lantern Kyle Rayner leading a team that consists of one member each of all the different colours of lantern corps. It could be a mess of Skittles, but I have faith in Bedard.
Justice League Dark There's no series in the new 52 that I want to exceed my expectations more than this bizarre Peter Milligan-written book about a group of magical folks like Shade the Changing Man, Zatanna and John Constantine doing their best to act like a super-hero team. Most of the stars of this book have or currently have good books in DC's non-super-hero line Vertigo, so even as a publishing experiment this one is too peculiar not to watch. It's like Warner Bros. deciding the Harry Potter characters should also hang out in the Batman movies.
These have a high chance of stinking
September 7 Books...
Detective Comics The series that DC Comics is named after gets a re-start. It still stars Batman, but this assignment's been given to writer-artist Tony Daniel whose Batman comics have been all too ordinary for my hopes to be raised now.
Green Arrow DC's heroic archer is one of those characters who is occasionally in some good storylines, but often in some bad ones. Writer J.T. Krul's writing is notoriously divisive and frequently panned. Just Google his name and "dead cat." His plans to revive Green Arrow as some sort of vigilante who also runs an Apple-like tech company keep my expectations low.
September 14 Books...
Grifter I don't know the work of writer Nathan Edmondson, so it's with some regret that I place this book here, but judging by the concept—wronged grifter wrongly blamed as a serial killer has to clear his name with guns in each hand—I don't expect a story that will hook me or avoid cliche.
Suicide Squad My enthusiasm for this revival of John Ostrander's cult classic series about incarcerated super-villains who are forced to go on dangerous missions for the U.S. government plummeted when I read new writer Adam Glass' recent Legion of Doom series. The writing there was poor and Glass has not helped his case by hyping this book as an edgier version than Ostrander's that will eschew the type of off-mission bonding that made the original book's villainous crew so likeable.
Red Lanterns Writer Peter Milligan is capable of writing some classic comics (see: Human Target, Enigma), but he also has written some badly hacked work. Artist Ed Benes is loved by fans of leggy ladies, but I dislike his style. On top of all that we have a comic about the angry version of Green Lanterns in a corner of DC's universe that is usually driven by the Green Lantern flagship book at the expense of the rest of the fleet. I just don't think this one's going to click.
September 21 Books…
Supergirl Superman's cousin is a strange visitor from another planet. She's an unpredictable teenager with a potentially bad attitude. I don't know about this...
Captain Atom As much as I like artist Freddie Williams III's dynamic wide-screen super-hero art, I have little faith in writer J.T. Krul and even less in the staying power of Captain Atom, an atomic super-hero who has never been anything to me but dull. Dr. Manhattan he ain't.
Catwoman The point of Catwoman as a character is cheesecake, I guess. She's a jewel thief who we aren't supposed to hate pretty much because she's sexy. Writer Judd Winick will have to work hard to convince me there are new Catwoman comics worth caring about. There have been before, when the cheesecake was de-emphasized, but the cover I've seen of the first issue of this one has her top half-unzipped, so…
Red Hood and the Outlaws Take the angry, resurrected former Robin Jason Todd, add bimbo heroine Starfire and loutish Green Arrow sidekick Speedy and you've got a super-hero team I can't care about.
September 28 Books…
Batman: The Dark Knight I avoided popular artist David Finch's first run of the Batman book of this title because I'm sceptical of super-star artists who are given books to also write. Then he missed his deadlines, confessed that writing was harder than he thought and was given a co-writer for this new book. Why the world needs this Batman comic is beyond me as it reeks of some sort of obligation to Finch and nothing more. I see no reason to jump on board unless you, like many, love Finch's art.
Blackhawks Changes of writers and a murky concept about elite military people who use high-tech weapons make me wish this book was actually about fighter pilots from the mid-20th century, which was the old and probably better Blackhawks concept.
I, Vampire Vampires in the DC Universe in a book that pits one guy against his evil vampire ex-lover. Was DC's ongoing American Vampire series not great enough or something? There's no quota on vampire books, but I'm worried this one will suffer the comparison.
The Savage Hawkman Another revival for Hawkman, this time making him a bloodthirsty savage of a hero. But in his alter-ego he is an archaeologist? I'm pessimistic about this one.
Superman Lois Lane has a new boyfriend and Superman is having his comic written by George Perez who is excellent at art but ordinary at writing. Obviously the flagship Superman book will be Morrison's Action Comics, but the assignment of Perez here is a head-scratcher. If only Perez was drawing the book. Well, no. Even then I would hope DC had assigned a top writer. I don't get this.
Teen Titans See the entry about Superboy. Add in the Image Comics-like art of Brett Booth who some people love, but I'm not some people.
Voodoo Cheers to DC for including some surprise series in the new 52. Maybe Ron Marz's book about a sexy lady who might be hero, villain or both will be a good one, but the fact is, the only positive I've discovered about this book so far is that, well, as I said, it's a surprise.
Phew! That's a lot of comics, and that's not even all of the super-hero books DC is launching later this year. This is just the first big wave. I'll be away next week for the September 7 books, but check back in the weeks that follow as I read all 52 of these comics and confess whether my expectations match the quality of the books once I actually read them.