Comic Rants: Four Books from the New 52 That I Actually Like
I’ve given DC Comics’ New 52 a bit of grief since it came out, and I’ve been fairly outspoken about the fact that there is a huge lack of variety coming from both DC and Marvel these days. However, like almost everything else, the New 52 has some good spots as well. I mean, why else would I care about the quality coming from that company anyway? If it were complete garbage, I could just ignore it entirely.
With that in mind, here are my thoughts on what’s been good about the New 52 now that we’re three years in.
I really miss the western genre. Sure, there have been a few movies here and there, but overall the western seems to have faded away. The existence of All-Star Western, however, shows that it can still be done well…even if the adventure happens to bring our cowboy hero back east – or into another time.
All-Star Western features Jonah Hex, who has existed for about 40 years or so in DC Comics but has rarely been featured due to the fact that he died more than a century before the modern-day heroes even existed. This series brings him to Gotham City in the 19th century, which ties him somewhat into the DC Universe as a whole. For example, he deals with the Court of Owls that threatened Batman in the modern day.
For the first year and a half, the book was pretty much a mix of western and horror tropes, with Jonah joining up with Amadeus Arkham and the scarred Tallulah Black, whose badass tendencies and complete lack of shame about sex made her an instant favorite character of mine. Later, Jonah wound up in more superheroic adventures, teaming up with amnesiac time-traveler Booster Gold and then later finding himself in the modern era and meeting Superman. Despite the vast possibility that such plots would be terrible, they actually were quite awesome, thanks in large part to the creative combination of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray.
This is probably the best series that the New 52 has to offer. I can’t wait to see where the series will go next…
Oh, God damn it.
One thing I really like about the New 52 is the fact that it gave writers a chance to explore the larger DC Universe. This is a place that had a lot of interesting stories to tell even before Superman put on his first cape. Demon Knights is a title that tells the story of the DC Universe in the Dark Ages. It brings us Etrigan the demon, who joins up with a whole cast of interesting new characters.
When you get right down to it, Demon Knights is pretty much the perfect comic for those nerds like me who love both superheroes and fantasy RPGs. Unfortunately, such a comic seems to be difficult to market in the modern superhero-dominated marketplace, so in 2013 it got…
Well, at least it was good while it lasted.
As a guy who is married, has kids, and loves comics, it’s hard to find superheroes I can really relate to. One of the reasons I love Greg Pak’s run on The Incredible Hulk is that he gave the Hulk a family – while the situation was short-lived, it was interesting to witness one of my childhood superheroes growing up.
In both the DC and Marvel superhero universes, Animal Man is a rarity in that he’s a superhero who has a happy family life and whose family plays an integral role in his heroics. Animal Man was well-written and interesting because it was one of the few titles that broke away from the typical DC mold, presenting a guy with powers who was more or less retired from the tights and flights business. I understand the belief that married characters become less interesting (I disagree with it, but I at least understand it), but if your company is publishing 52 stories a month, there needs to be some variety. Animal Man provided that variety.
Perhaps that’s why it was…
But don’t worry – he’s showing up in Justice League of America. And his family/integral supporting cast is…somewhere…I think.
Of course Wonder Woman is on my list. I mean, how can you screw up Wonder Woman?
Okay…pretty easily. But this time they didn’t. With Brian Azzarello on writing duties and Cliff Chiang providing excellent art, the relaunch of Diana, princess of the Amazons went remarkably well. I say remarkable not because these guys aren’t talented but because they took a lot of risks that would have gotten fans sharpening their axes and pitchforks under most circumstances. Early on we find out that Wonder Woman is actually a child of Zeus, that Ares (the big bad from the previous universe) was her mentor, and that taking off her bracelets basically makes her go super saiyan. Me mentioning these things probably made some fanboys’ heads explode, but it worked really well this time around.
One of the things that worked really well with this series was the decision to make it largely disconnected from the DC Universe. On the one hand, this makes for a bit of disparity when romantic tension is building between Wonder Woman and Orion in her own book, while she’s sucking Superman’s face over in Justice League and Superman/Wonder Woman.
On the other hand, it allows the character to develop on her own in the rebooted universe. Especially early on when DC couldn’t give a straight explanation of what happened from the old universe and what didn’t, Wonder Woman’s book felt like a true reboot while also managing to dodge all the obnoxious origin stuff that often comes from such a situation.
Yep, this was a really good book. Which is probably why it was…
Nah, I’m just kidding. DC isn’t going to cancel Wonder Woman. Even though they can’t seem to get their act together and make a Wonder Woman movie, they know perfectly well that she’s one of their most iconic characters (and arguably the only iconic female character in superhero comics). But Azzarello and Chiang are finishing up their run this year and the title is supposedly going to move into a new status quo that more closely aligns with the rest of the DC Universe. Hopefully, three years of buildup have done the character well and the next run will be able to find a golden mean between the two versions of Wonder Woman we currently have.