Posts Tagged ‘New 52’

The Real 25 Essential Graphic Novels Of DC Entertainment

May 13, 2013

The “DC Entertainment Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology 2013” has published a list of what DC consider their “Top 25 Essential Graphic Novels.”

It’s a pretty good list, with a few edits.  Here’s the list as I would do it:

  1. Watchmen
  2. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
  3. The Sandman Volume 1: Preludes & Nocturnes
  4. Batman: Year One
  5. V For Vendetta there’s no doubt that V For Vendetta is an amazing book, but in my mind it’s #26 on a Top 25 list.  Instead, wouldn’t you really want to read the book that, along with Sandman, redefined comic book writing for the modern era?  That’s why I’d give this spot to the Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon classic Preacher Volume 1: Gone To Texas.
  6. Saga of the Swamp Thing Book One
  7. Fables Volume 1: Legends In Exile
  8. Batman: The Killing Joke The Deluxe Edition
  9. Y: The Last Man Volume 1: Unmanned
  10. All-Star Superman
  11. Kingdom Come
  12. Batman: The Long Halloween
  13. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 1
  14. Batman: Earth One Instead of another “Year One” style book, the better pick would be a compliment to the legacy and myth of the Batman, and one familiar to viewers of the DC animated films. Namely, Batman: Under The Red Hood.
  15. Green Lantern: Rebirth this, and Flash: Rebirth, are very “inside baseball.”  Both books were used as a mechanism for DC to bring two dead characters (the Silver Age Green Lantern and Flash) back to life.  They were powerful stories for older readers like me, but to new readers they fall short due to a lack of context.  Instead, I’d go with a great Green Arrow title.  Specifically the one that is defining some of the urban edge that the television show Arrow is trying to create; Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters.
  16. American Vampire Volume 1
  17. Blackest Night this was the culmination of a multi-year story across Green Lantern (that started, funny enough, with Green Lantern: Rebirth).  Instead of this “third act,” I’d recommend “backing up” and going with Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War.
  18. Final Crisis I loved Final Crisis.  Loved it!  But in a Top 25 list, it’s #26 (tied with V For Vendetta).  The better Grant Morrison selection would be the book that helped modernize super heroes in the late eighties; Animal Man Book 1: Animal Man.
  19. JLA Volume 1
  20. Identity Crisis
  21. Batman: Hush
  22. Joker (tie) I’m going to cheat here.  I can’t knock Joker off this list, because it’s a great book, and fans of the Batman film will like this book.  What I will do is compliment this with the Grant Morrison/Dave McKean Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth.
  23. The Flash: Rebirth (see #15)  I’d use this spot to recommend one of the best super hero series of the last few years, Ex Machina Volume 1: The First Hundred Days.
  24. Superman: Earth One Volume 1 If you have to pick a Superman “Year One” title, the better choice is the book that inspired the Smallville TV series, Superman: For All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale (who also did Batman: The Long Halloween).
  25. Planetary Volume 1: All Over The World And Other Stories

52 Pickup – What I’ll Be Buying During September’s DC #1 Reboot

July 5, 2011
Action Comics #1 (April, 1938)

Action Comics #1 (April, 1938)

The entire line of 52 DC #1 reboot titles have been announced, and the following is my pull list / recommendations for September.

A few notes up-front about this list.

  • These are my personal recommendations and should be treated as such.  If you don’t agree with my recommendations, that’s cool.  We’re still friends.  🙂 I encourage you to make your own decisions.
  • My methodology for purchasing comics is that I tend to follow writers.  Then artists.  Then characters.  I wrote about this in great detail in a previous post.  A good writer can steer me to buy a book about a character I don’t care about.  Example: Geoff Johns on Aquaman (sorry Katy!).  But as much as I love Adam Strange, if he’s in a book with a writer I don’t like, I’ll take a pass.
  • My attention span is limited to 20 pages before I loose interest in a reboot title (something covered in my other post under “The DC Challenge”).  Meaning, if they don’t wow me with the first issue, I’m not going to stick around for a full story-arc for it to “get better.”  Creative teams who are not conscious of the fact that they are fighting for my attention and need to grab me at the jump don’t deserve it.

Strong Buy Recommendations

New Justice

  • Justice League (Geoff Johns/Jim Lee): the first title out of the gate, and it’s sure to be a winner.  The creative team alone sells me on this book.  Two of the chief architects behind the reboot, working together on the heaviest hitters in the DCU.  You had me at, “JL.”
  • Aquaman (Geoff Johns/Ivan Reis): if Johns and Reis can make Aquaman cool again (and let’s face it, he hasn’t been cool since his days in Detroit), then this will be a book to remember.
  • Wonder Woman (Brian Azzarello / Cliff Chiang): Azzarello often gets left out of conversations about great super hero writers, but if you look at his body of work, he’s written some of the best Superman and Batman  stories in the past few years with the Luthor and Joker books.  Cliff Chiang is both no stranger to drawing Amazons (see Green Arrow/Black Canary) and a personal favorite artist of mine since his days illustrating Josie Mac.

Green Lantern

  • Green Lantern (Geoff Johns/Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy): while Johns didn’t create Hal Jordan, he has an understanding of how to write this character and that’s made for one of the most consistent books over the past few years.  I’m glad he’s staying on this title and look forward to the new run.

Batman

  • Batman (Scott Snyder / Greg Capullo): Snyder is coming off of an exceptional run on Detective Comics.  My first thought was that he might be misplaced on Batman (as opposed to Detective Comics) since it was his focus on the crime investigation and human elements that made the book such a great read.  That said, Snyder is a professional writer and I’m certain he can adapt to work on the flagship title.
  • Batgirl (Gail Simone/Ardian Syaf): while Gail Simone has logged a lot of time writing Barbara Gordon, she hasn’t actually written her as Batgirl.  Few have over the past 20 years.  So it will be interesting to see how she approaches Barbara back in the role of Batgirl (assuming it is Barbara behind the mask).
  • Batwing (Judd Winick/Ben Oliver): Batman is cool, but Batwing is going to be cooler.  This is what the reboot is all about.  Taking concepts to places they haven’t been before with characters who might have not been represented in the past.  This should be on everyone’s list (and, because I know Judd is gonna knock this out of the park).
  • Batwoman (J.H. Williams III/Haden Blackman/Amy Reeder): this was the most anticipated title of 2011 before the reboot and the fact that it’s still on track is excellent news.
  • Catwoman (Judd Winick/Guillem March): trust me when I tell you, this is gonna be the breakout book of the Bat titles.  I spoke to Judd about what he plans to do with this book, and it’s gonna be a page-turner.
  • …and though it’s not launching until 2012, Grant Morrison/Chris Burnham on Batman, Incorporated is also a must buy.

Dark Side

The key to these “Dark Side” books will be if they really let the creators push these books to the type of “Veritgo space” that the old DC Swamp Thing, Hellblazer and Doom Patrol tread in (before they got moved into their own imprint).  I’m waiting for the group editor here to say that the safeties are off…

  • Animal Man (Jeff Lemire/Travel Foreman): Lemire excels at telling stories with intimate family moments and I’m hoping that he’s allowed to go “dark” (see above note) with his storytelling here.  Read Sweet Tooth.  He can do it, it’s a question of will they let him go there.
  • Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE (Jeff Lemire/Alberto Ponticelli): Lemire is clearly one of the new writers that DC is betting heavily on.  I’ll be interested to see what he does on this team book and am enjoying his take on the character in Flashpoint.
  • I, Vampire (Josh Fialkov/Andrea Sorrentino): I almost skipped over this book, until I saw that it was Josh Fialkov writing it.  His series Echoes was quite good (thanks for the heads up on that, Dan).  Again, if he can really go “dark” on this book, that’ll be the difference between a lame vampire book and one that stays in the buy pile.
  • Justice League Dark (Peter Milligan/Mikel Janin): terrible title and while this book was sorta done already in Doom Patrol #53 with the Legion of the Strange (Comics Alliance), I’m hoping Peter Milligan makes this something to talk about like he did when he was writing X-Statix for Marvel.
  • Swamp Thing (Scott Snyder/Yannick Paquette): Snyder is one of their strongest writers right now, and he understands horror (see American Vampire), so it stands to reason they’d put him on the Swamp Thing relaunch.

The Next Generation of Justice

  • Legion of Super Heroes (Paul Levitz/Francis Portela): not only did Paul Levitz understand the Legion when he wrote the book the  first time around, but since he’s been back he’s shown that he’s still got it.

The Edge

The note that I made about the “Dark Side” books is the same note I’d make about these books.  Any line called “The Edge” better feel more like a Vertigo crime book and less like a middle-of-the-line DC book, or it might as well be just another title on the shelf.

  • Blackhawks (Mike Costa/Ken Lashley): Costa was part of the G.I. Joe: Cobra book from IDW.  That gets him a shot at trying to win me over.
  • Stormwatch (Paul Cornell/Miguel Sepulveda): Cornell won me over with his work on Action Comics.  I’m on board (even though Martian Manhunter can be a pretty boring character).

Superman

  • Action Comics (Grant Morrison/Rags Morales): Morrison is one of the most imaginative writers working in comics, and he writes stories that make your brain explode (in a good way).  It’s almost laughable to think that the man who was once the poster child for Vertigo and seen as being “too weird” is now writing the most iconic comic book character ever created.  And Morales is an artist who can do both action and emotion (re-read Identity Crisis and it’s all there).
  • Superman: The Man Of Tomorrow (George Perez/Jesus Merino): in February of 1987, after the Crisis on Infinite Earths rebooted the DC Universe, George Perez rebuilt Wonder Woman from the ashes.  Now he will be back to do the same for Superman.

Cautiously Optimistic

Justice League

  • DC Universe Presents  (Paul Jenkins / Bernard Chang): an anthology is going to be pretty important in filling in some of the “gaps” and quite frankly, I’ve always liked anthologies.  Paul Jenkins is a very underrated writer and I’m happy to see him back from working across the street at Marvel.  That said, anthologies are hit or miss, so I’ve moved it to this column.
  • The Flash (Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato): while I love Manpaul / Buccellato as artists, they are unproven as writers and that’s the only reason they’re not in the “strong buy” column.  I’m hoping that these two surprise me and push this title over the top.
  • Mister Terrific (Eric Wallace / Roger Robinson): while I have read a few comics from Eric Wallace, I do not have an opinion of him one way or the other.  Neither do I for Roger Robinson.  This is one of the rare instances where a character (Mister Terrific) is compelling me to try a title.

Batman

  • Birds of Prey (Duane Swierczynski/Jesus Saiz): I’ve tried a number of Swierczynski’s Marvel titles, and they never really resonated with me.  I’m hoping that the move to DC, the reboot and the fact that he’s on a team book are all enough variables that maybe get me on board with his writing.
  • Detective Comics (Tony Daniel): while I am not a huge fan of Daniel’s writing, the vote of confidence to keep him on Batman as a writer and shift him to this title is enough to make me give it a shot.  As a polite reminder to Daniel, I would point out that he has 20 pages to get me to stay on the title.
  • Red Hood And The Outlaws (Scott Lobdell/Kenneth Rocafort): pairing Jason Todd with Roy Harper is enough to get me to check this out.

Dark Side

  • Demon Knights (Paul Cornell/Diogenes Neves): I have very little interest in this book, but the idea of Paul Cornell writing it will at least get me in the door for a first issue.

The Next Generation of Justice

  • Hawk & Dove (Sterling Gates/Rob Liefeld): Hawk & Dove is what first brought most people to the attention of Rob Liefeld.  Say what you will about his art style, but he brings a level of enthusiasm to the page that few artists can match.  I should also mention that Sterling Gates is a very talented writer and did some great work on Supergirl (another youth-oriented book).
  • Legion Lost (Fabian Nicieza/Pete Woods): I have very little interest in the concept, but I know that some of Nicieza’s best work was on the New Warriors, so I’m going to give this a shot.

The Edge

  • Grifter (Nathan Edmondson/CAFU and BIT): Edmonson’s “Who Is Jake Ellis?” from Image is a neat series.  I’m a fan of Cafu and Bit, so this book is worth a try.
  • OMAC (Dan DiDio/Keith Giffen and Scott Koblish): the cover image looks more like the Hulk and less like the original OMAC.  DiDio is doing what Johns and Lee are doing; working on titles in the trenches with the rest of their creative teams.  So that gets him a spot on my list.
  • Sgt. Rock And The Men Of War (Ivan Brandon/Tom Derenick): see my comment about what I’m looking for from the Edge titles.  Brandon can write gritty war comics.  It’s going to be less about ability and more about if they let him take the title in that direction or keep him in the middle.

Superman

  • Supergirl (Michael Green and Mike Johnson/Mahmud Asrar): I’ve enjoyed Michael Green’s books (and TV work) in the past, so he gets a shot to show me what he’ll do for Supergirl.

Final Count:

  • Strong Buys: 19
  • Cautiously Optimistic: 13
  • Total: 32/52

Can’t wait for September…

Action Comics #1 (September, 2011)

Action Comics #1 (September, 2011)

The DC #1 Reboot (AKA The Long Road To September)

June 2, 2011

The announcement from DC Comics in USA Today this past Tuesday can be summarized as follows:

The entire line of DC Universe (DCU) comic book titles are getting a major overhaul this coming September.  This “reboot” eliminates some titles, adds new ones.  It will assign new creative teams pretty much across the board and will develop new takes on all of the characters.  All titles will ship digitally on the same day as they are available in comic book stores and, every title gets (re)numbered to #1.

The Tuesday announcement also stated that the first title will be The Justice League, written by Geoff Johns (Chief Creative Officer of DC) and penciled by Jim Lee (co-publisher).

Is This The First Time This Has Happened?

DC has done this a number of times over the course of its 75+ year history.

The Silver Age in the 1960’s.  1985’s Crisis On Infinite Earths.  1994’s Zero Hour.  And most recently, 2006’s One Year Later.

Those are the major ones.  There are also “softer” reboots that have happened during the run of any particular series such as the tonal shifts of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman in the 1970’s.

Reboots in the DCU, and other serialized fiction, are cyclical due to the fact that the problems with integrating the increasing amounts of continuity over an extended period of time.

While it can be debated whether it is the ideal solution, the reboot is seen by many as the natural (and easiest) release valve.

Why Dump The Continuity? 

From the outside looking in, the density of continuity is often seen as the barrier holding back new readers from entering comic books.

It can be argued that every reader has to start somewhere, and every reader eventually gets up to speed with continuity (I managed to do this before my tenth birthday, without the aid of the Internet).

But that only addresses the most loyal of fans.  Casual readers require fewer obstacles to get on board.

The reboot solves this problem for new readers.  They get to start on the ground floor along with everyone else (myself included).

For existing readers, like me, it means closing the door on one continuity and opening the door to another.

Frankenstein Monster Say Change (and Fire) Is Bad!

And as we know, he would be wrong in saying that.

Change is often met with fear and I’m sure that many longtime fans will see this as a personal attack.  That the stories they know and love no longer “count.”

The reality is that this opens the door for new stories to be known and to be loved.  And to count for everyone.

And I have to think there will be nods to those old/known/loved/counted stories.

This is inclusive.  Not exclusive.

But Will It Work?

It’s hard to say if this will work or not because so much has changed in the industry over just the past ten years.

Distribution channels for how readers get comics.  The quality of writing and art.  The familiarity of new readers with the characters from exposure in movies and television.  The crossover of comic books into mainstream culture.  Etc.

It’s hard to compare this reboot with even the 2006 One Year Later because, market conditions aside, the scope of this type reboot has not been done in so long that it’s difficult to compare.

It would be like comparing the original King Kong with the 1976 and 2005 remakes.  The storytelling is different.  The market is different.  Too many variables.

What I will say is that this reinvigorates the line and people are talking.  DC has the attention that they want.

As to if they will maintain the current readers and bring in new ones as well…there will be a lot of attention on the Septembers sales charts  (as will November, December, etc.).

Where Do I Personally Stand On The Reboot?

Continuity is a platform of moral superiority for many fans.  Knowing more than other readers is seen by many as a status symbol.

And let’s face it, it’s also selfish.

It’s selfish in that continuity can grow to be so large and so vast that it builds a wall around the medium making it difficult for others to come in and access it.

The fact that everyone is now starting on the ground floor is OK with me.  I’d trade in my 30+ years of DCU knowledge for more readers enjoying comic books.  I’m fine with that.

I’m fine with more people in the comic book store on a Wednesday if it means that we’re all talking about the same stories we read last week.

Part of the reason I feel this way is something on the Greg Fitzsimmons podcast about nostalgia and the fact that nostalgia is exclusionary.

That really stuck with me.

What Will I Be Buying?

Each day is bringing new information on the creative teams and titles (see today’s announcement on The Source Blog  for the 10 “New Justice” titles) but a list of creative teams and 25 word descriptions aren’t enough to pass judgement.

I won’t know how I feel about the titles themselves until I read them in September.  After all, we do not know what we do not know.

So, here’s my strategy: based on previous performance by the creative teams + my interest in the descriptions of the titles, I will try sample books and then make my judgements.

For example: Brian Azzarello is a a writer who has yet to let me down.  Cliff Chiang is a phenomenal artist.  They’re on Wonder Woman.  I’m down for that book.

Should You Be Excited About This If You Currently Don’t Read Comic Books?

Not to tell you how to feel, but yes.  Yes you should excited about this.

If you are a new reader, it’s your opportunity to get in on the ground floor.  And by that, I don’t just mean with DC.  It could help you work your way into reading other comic books.

Across the street, Marvel comics is publishing some pretty awesome stuff.  If  you were at all impressed with the Thor movie, you owe it to yourself to see the epic scale of action and drama happening in the Fear Itself mini-series by Matt Fraction and Immonen.

That new Justice League title in the USA Today article looks like a sure bet to please new readers.  Geoff Johns and Jim Lee are two of the most talented creators in comics and 2 of the masterminds behind this reboot.  Think of it like the David Chase scripted episodes of the Sopranos.

But what about the other 51 titles?  My suggestion is to read about the creative teams and descriptions.  See what catches your attention.  Use Wikipedia (or the comments section on this blog) to learn more about the writers and artists.

For instance: Brian Azzarello wrote a great Joker hardcover that can tune you into his writing style.  Cliff Chiang illustrated a cool comic based on Neil Young’s Greendale.

There are plenty of books to sample, today, that skirt continuity that can give you a feel for some of the creators working on the reboot.

I also suspect previews and samples will be online (and on the iPad) as we get closer to September.

Find your local comic book store (Comic Shop Locator) and ask them what they’d recommend.

My Open Challenge To DC (AKA “The DC Challenge”)

I won’t beat around the bush.  DC, don’t mess this up!

Comic books are $2.99 for 20 pages and that’s the amount of money and time  you have to maintain me as a reader for each title.

Let me put this in nice big bold letters to be clear – you have 20 pages to convince me to keep purchasing each title.  You need to recognize that there is an over saturation of entertainment sources (and content), so asking me to spend more than 20 pages to “wait for it to get good.” is not an option.  

My brother and I were having a conversation about the show “The Event.”  He was trying to convince me that in the later episodes it found it’s bearings and started to get good.

Too late.  I’d already moved on to watching other shows that secured my free time.

The modern consumer does not have the time or bandwidth to “wait for something to get good.”  It needs to grab them out of the gate.  Go hard or go home.  

My Open Challenge To The Internet

If you’re happy hating on the announcement before you’ve even read the comic books, maybe it’s time  you left.

As in now.

Leave.

Vote with your dollars and go elsewhere. 

Marvel publishes great comics.  They’d be happy to have you.

I was flipping through Previews yesterday and was amazed at how many Star Wars titles Dark Horse is publishing these days.  You can go there.

Dynamite has all those Green Hornet titles.

Seriously,there are plenty of comic books being published weekly that if you didn’t want to read DC comics, you could enjoy other things and never miss them.

And that’s fine.  If it’s not your thing.  It’s not your thing.

And voting with your dollars will tell DC this.  And if enough people do that, maybe things will change again.

But then again, if enough people buy these books then maybe it shows them that they’re on the right track.

Change is not always a bad thing, my advice is to embrace it and see where it takes you.