DC’s New 52: Five Titles Worth Reading

I just read through a month and a half’s worth of DC’s titles, and now that we’re firmly into month 3, my reading list has been winnowed greatly. Here are the five books I’m going to continue buying.

One of the big challenges with these titles is that they only have 20 pages available, which makes it rare to find satisfying comics that are enjoyable on their own, instead of as part of a bigger continuing story. A big fight scene, while perhaps visually exciting, can leave this reader feeling like I’ve wasted my money. Other books are made up of bits, not coming together into a cohesive whole. But enough on what others are doing wrong. Here are the ones I think are getting stuff right.

Legion Lost #3

Legion Lost #3 cover

by Fabian Nicieza & Pete Woods

While the main Legion of Super-Heroes title feels disjointed to me, trying to cover too many characters in not enough space, this one has a simple premise that allows greater focus. (Plus, it’s in keeping with the history of the concept.) A small team — Timber Wolf, Wildfire, Tyroc, Dawnstar, Tellus — has been trapped in our time, where they’re trying to stop another alien from infecting humans with some kind of space plague.

I actually care about this threat (unlike in some of the other 52), I can follow it from issue to issue, and it’s visually interesting. The characters are well-chosen for a blend of powers and personalities, some of which have been under-served in the past, so I’m glad to spend more time getting to know them better.

I’ve always liked team books better than solo superhero stories, because they allow for more different characterizations. I would have liked this better with more than one girl hero (although that may be addressed next issue), but while all these team members have reason to be angsty and upset, they’re still acting as heroes, trying to make things better for others in spite of their own trauma.

Birds of Prey #3

Birds of Prey #3 cover

written by Duane Swierczynski; art by Jesus Saiz

Speaking of team books, I’m glad this one is shaking out into something I might like. I’m still not sure about new character Starling, who seems too much a plot device. She always wins her fights, she’s always thought two steps ahead, and she doesn’t need anything from anyone. I hope her character gets fleshed out with some weaknesses and three-dimensionality soon.

I miss Oracle, but I’m glad to see Black Canary and Katana. This issue, they recruit Poison Ivy, leading to a debate on which methods are acceptable for their goals. (Which I’m a little fuzzy on right now.) The emphasis has been on action over depth so far, but a Katana who talks to her dead husband’s soul stuck in her sword intrigues me. And I do want to support an all-woman team.

Batwoman #3

Batwoman #3 cover

by J.H. Williams III; co-written by W. Haden Blackman

Another book that’s showing interaction among women broken in various ways. Kate Kane has a dynamite design, immediately drawing the eye wherever she appears, and her backstory is equally involving, with a sister she thought dead but who may have become a demented villain. I like the way her dad supports her, I like seeing cousin Bette as her apprentice/sidekick, and I’m tickled by her burgeoning relationship with officer Maggie Sawyer. I never thought I’d see Cameron Chase again, but here she is, too, still working for the DEO investigating supers.

What sets this book apart from all others, though, is the stunning art by Williams. Most of the book is composed in two-page spreads, which opens up the story and also benefits the comic in another way: it’s much better suited to read in print than online. This is a book to buy, not browse digitally.

Wonder Woman #3

Wonder Woman #3 cover

written by Brian Azzarello; art by Cliff Chiang

I’m a bit surprised at what’s driving some of my picks, since two of my selections are art-focused (at least in terms of why I choose to keep reading them). Normally, the story is the most important factor for me, but I love Chiang’s work, and I’m very glad it’s on display in a monthly title.

I disagree with the choices made — to position this book as a horror title, to reveal a father for Diana — but at least someone seems to have a vision for the character that isn’t retro and has a direction that makes sense based on her history. I’m assuming that Azzarello will continue following up on how this makes Queen Hippolyta a liar to her people, but I’m disappointed on how this rips apart one of the few mother/daughter relationships seen in superhero comics. (So many of them are about the father, as though only that one parent shaped a child.) I guess he felt he needed a reason to make Wonder Woman into a superhero connected more to our world than hers.

I’m pleased to see the Amazons used as supporting characters (although that might be changing), and the gods appearing modernized, so we’re not reading the same thing we’ve seen before. And gracious, it’s lovely, with simple, direct designs and excellent storytelling. I just don’t have the words to do justice to Chiang’s skill.

Green Lantern #3

Green Lantern #3 cover

written by Geoff Johns; pencils by Doug Mahnke; inks by Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Mark Irwin, and Tom Nguyen

I’ve already talked about how surprised I am that I’m following this title, but by putting the relationship (and the attendent power struggles) between Hal Jordan and Sinestro front and center, I’ve got a hook that I never before had when reading about magical space cops.

Sinestro needs help, because his Corps have turned against him. So he’s willing to give the disgraced Hal Jordan (I love that phrase, because I’m very ambivalent about him, historically) back a ring in return for his help. This actually makes Sinestro somewhat sympathetic (although he’s made his own problems), which ties in nicely with the movie portrayal.

Johns is doing an excellent job with cliffhangers as well, making this a great read month to month. Each last page leaves me wondering what he’s going to do next.


18 Responses to “DC’s New 52: Five Titles Worth Reading”

  1. Rob Barrett Says:

    Sinestro has been my primary reason for reading Johns’s GREEN LANTERN ever since he took over–I was going to drop the book early on until I read those magic words, “Welcome to the Sinestro Corps!” While I like the larger changes Johns has made to the Lantern mythology, it’s his work in rehabilitating Sinestro that I value the most.

  2. James Schee Says:

    I’m reading these five, though Legion Lot is on a bubble for me right now. I don’t know if its because none of the characters have ever been favorites or the story, but there’s a disconnect for me in it.

    Batwoman I’m understanding and enjoying more, now that I read the stories that came before this series. It is hard to read digitally though.

    BOP has been fun, a little hectic so far but I’m enjoying it. Hope we get to see them all fleshed out soon.

    GL has been a huge surprise for me, never caed for Hl but he’s interesting here feeding off Sinestro.

    WW I’m not sure what to make of the changes yet. Its a very interesting story so far, if it gives her a direction other than the one she’s stuck on for years then its all to the good.

    Others I’m reading:

    Batgirl & Nightwing – Honestly I’m not really over joyed by either storyline here, but the characterizations have been interesting.

    Flash – Another of the big surprises for me, as I don’t know Barry Allen. Yet the panel layouts have been great and I’m enjoying the craft shown here.

    GL New Guardians – Has my favorite DC character in Kyle Rayner, in a heap of trouble so far. I wish the at was better though, too exaggerated for my tastes.

    JLI – These quirky characters together are just fun to read about. Though I honestly wonder exactly what use Lady Godiva is in a battle when her power is super hair.

    Batman – Snyder is really weaving an interesting story here, I’ve been impressed with his pacing and dialogue.

    Aquaman- Right behind Green Lantern this is the other surprise for me, as he’s made Aquaman interesting. Could use a bit better pacing though, as the long fights make it seem like quick reads.

    Stormwatch & Demon Knights Im still reading, but that’s mainly out of potential. I’m giving them next issue to start showing it though or they are off the list though.

  3. Johanna Says:

    Hectic is a great word for BOP. It moves fast, and I hope that’s not camouflage for a lack of depth. I liked the setup in GL New Guardians of giving Kyle all the rainbow rings, but that just fizzled away and nothing interesting happened. KC has been talking up Snyder, but I just don’t care about Batman unless he’s interacting with someone else I like (as in Batman Inc.).

    I remember a long-ago Super Friends comic with Godiva where she explains she can harden her hair into a shield, because hardened hair is what fingernails are made of. So maybe that’s helpful, too?

  4. James Schee Says:

    Yeah the only other thing I’ve read by Swierczynski is his novel “The Blonde” which was also very hectic as well. There was some depth eventually there, but he does action so well and so I’d guess it’ll continue with that direction. (which is fine, as long as its well done)

    I like that Snyder’s Bruce isn’t the sadist that Batman was for so long. I’ve always liked Batman, but he got way too dark when even his own friends and family were scared of him. (on other hand Batdaddy in Batman & Robin, where Damian Wayne is just SO annoying got old fast)

    That would at least give Godiva something to do other than stand around talking I guess. Going against gigantic robot things doesn’t give her powers much to do though.

  5. Jim Perreault Says:

    Interesting.

    Of this list, the only one I am reading is Green Lantern. It has greatly improved ; I attribute that to Johns not being distracted by other activities.

    I looked through the first issue of Wonder Woman, and was not that interested in a horror take on the character. I thought it was well done, but the approach does not appeal to me.

    I also was not interested in an Oracle-less Birds of Prey, but the way you describe Kantana sounds interesting. Maybe I’ll take a look.

    I think my favorite of the new 52 is Justice League Dark. Milligan is a competent writer, and he has a fresh new take on the team.

    I’m also enjoying Morrison’s Action Comics, but I liked his previous work on the character as well.

  6. Johanna Says:

    I like the cast mix in JL Dark, but I don’t like where the story’s gone in some cases, and it just crosses the line for me in violence and exploitation (Zatanna).

  7. Steely Dan Says:

    I’m reading:

    Action Comics: Superman has been bland for too long. Good to see them bring back the ’30s-inspired populist hero.

    All-Star Western: The story’s not bad, but I’m reading this one entirely for the art.

    Batwing: Bought this on a whim and am enjoying it against all expectations.

    Batwoman: The story isn’t as strong as the original graphic novel, “Elegy,” but the artwork is gorgeous. It makes for a nice sequel.

    Birds of Prey: Did not expect to like this one either, but the story is surprisingly good in a pulpy sort of way.

    Flash: This one is on the bubble for me. I’m enjoying it but just not blown away by it.

    Supergirl: Really enjoying this one a lot. The slow reveal may frustrate some readers, but I think it will play better in collected form because of it.

    Wonder Woman: The best of the line. Really bummed that Cliff Chiang is taking two issues off since his artwork is 80% of the reason why I’m buying this. The story is good, but wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without Chiang’s art.

    By the way, I’ve been buying all of these digitally and am very pleased with the experience. It’s great that these are all shipping on time, but as soon as they change artists on the titles I like, I’m dropping them like a hot potato.

  8. Anthony Says:

    The only 52 titles I’m reading are:

    * Static Shock: liked him from the TV series; ironically, I preferred Icon over Static back in the Milestone era. ENjoying the book so far, aside from seeing some Joker-like character in it (I hate the modern comics’ Joker, so the less aspects of him around the better IMO).

    * Action Comics: reading it for Morrison, less so for Clark’s “Lil’ Abner” costume.

    * Superman: I liked Perez’s run on this title, too bad to see him going soon.

    * Mister Terrific: glad to see him get his own book, but didn’t care much for the last half of the last issue (felt out of character). Also could do without the trademark DC-style shock-value violence of an earlier issue.

    As for the rest, Catwoman’s ick-filled sex scene turned me off, as did what they did to Starfire in “Red Hood.” Also didn’t care for the idea of “surly Aquaman” (again?! I didn’t like it in the 90s much) or the idea of making him a joke in-universe. Especially didn’t like “I don’t talk to fish” (it’s something I always accepted as possible within DC’s universe, along with Clark Kent hiding behind a pair of glasses), or the idea of chowing down on fish (eating seafood makes one “badass”? Wouldn’t being a vegetarian have been more original?).

    Otherwise, avoiding/ignoring everything else in the “DCNU”, and possibly will even drop the few I’m reading given writer changes (Perez is leaving Superman soon…).

  9. Johanna Says:

    I really like the idea of getting Superman back to his roots, too, but I’m not seeing enough of what I like to justify the higher price for Action Comics.

    The two of you are tough readers, being willing to drop books so quickly, but I’m glad to see people following creators.

  10. Anthony Says:

    I know I sound tough (or whiny, take your pick :-p ), just not sold on yet another reboot = fully trusting DC. Especially since most of what I think is wrong with DC hasn’t been fixed or is shoved in our face even more (the sexist treatment of women, the books being too expensive, the over the top/excessive shock value violence, humorless tone, etc). Thus I’m only back (after only buying Johnny DC and reprints) for favorite writers and characters … and ready to drop those if said writer leaves/the book’s tone changes. (*shrug*)

  11. Brian Says:

    Not a fan of BOP. The artist draws every face exactly the same. Even Katanas mask looks like one of the other characters faces. Not good.

    I like Wonder Woman. Glad they jetisoned the whole Gumby, made of clay thing. Chiang is great.

    Not a fan of the art in Batwoman like everyone else seems to be. It looks like really good Van art with various characters photoshopped in like laying colorform cutouts on fake backdrops. And it seems very much like fangirl service to me. Not that they aren’t entitled to some of their own after all the fanservice that gets tossed out to the fanBoys, but still.

    I like Green Lantern

    Legion Lost is just incredibly boring. I don’t care for a single character. Which sucks because I really wanted to like this title.

    I’m enjoying Captain Atom. Mostly cause I’m a fan of the charlton characters but I find the art is quirky in a Frank Springer kind of way.

    I’m sticking with Action, especially since they’re going to be having Shazam back ups.

    I’m also really enjoying Resurrection Man and Aquaman. I think those are my favorites. I’ve dropped most everything else.

  12. Johanna Says:

    Not sure what you mean by fangirl service in Batwoman — I can’t think of a male character who gets focus in the latest issue other than her dad — but if we’re going to note that, I feel compelled to say that I cannot read Resurrection Man because of the numerous pages that are nothing but pinups of the Body Doubles.

    Anthony, no worries from this end. I don’t think it’s whiny to have high standards, and I agree about some of the areas of concern, especially the violence and tone.

  13. Brian Says:

    Fan service for women is an entirely different thing than for dudes. Chicks like romance and “shipping”. Matters not what the characters gender is. In fact, the thing I hear most from fangirls is how much they want to see a gay tim drake, Blue Beetle and Booster made a gay couple and how much they want to see Black Canary and Barbara Gordon be “shipped”. So Batwoman is right up their alley so to speak.

  14. Johanna Says:

    As soon as anyone talking about women’s tastes says “chicks like”, I tune them out, sorry.

  15. Brian Says:

    Chicks do that.

  16. Kenn Says:

    I agree with you on the Batwoman art. It is amazing, and I’ll stick with the book until the artist leaves. Didn’t much like losing Conner Kent in the reboot, but Lobdell and Booth’s Teen Titans is quite a fun read (better by far than Lobdell’s Red Riding Hoods or whatever it’s called), as is Demon Knights (possibly my favorite book from DC). Nightwing and Batman are both terrific, and any book that allows Mera as much focus as the new Aquaman does is fine by me! Not a fan of Birds of Prey on principle. I wouldn’t support an exclusively male group any more than I can support an all-female group. Segregation is irksome.

  17. Guest Says:

    Nice summary, Johanna. My long-time connection with DC’s comics pretty much ended with this recent relaunch, but it’s interesting to see what’s going on with character I’ve had affection for over a lifetime. Different tack for Wonder Woman (who’s origin probably owes more to Galatea than Gumby…), and a familiar one for Dawnstar etc. Still, seeing the hands at the wheel over at DC, it’s repositioning at Time Warner, and wondering what Waid, Busiek, and so many others could have done with this…if there’s ever a time to part, this was it.

    I hope that now that digital delivery makes several decades of work more readily available to an interested audience that that material won’t be quarintined in order not to undermine the new tack – I’d rather e-purchase E Nelson Bridwell’s “Superfriends”, which gave us Godiva, than most of DC’s current output.

    Thanks for the great work at CWR, Action Girl!

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