On August 31st DC Comics is going to launch one of the most bold, innovative, and monumental changes in the history of comic books. They are going to be starting every one of their ongoing titles again with #1. That's fifty-two brand new #1s for all their books from Action Comics to Wonder Woman. This will be coupled with some rebooting so that DC can alter some of its 80 years of continuity and have a fresher, more diverse look for the new millennium.
Nothing like this has ever been done before. Marvel in the 90's restarted a couple of comics in a "different universe" with Heroes Reborn, but that was only some of its poor-selling flagship titles (Thor, Fantastic Four). DC has done reboots of their continuity as well, major ones like Crisis on Infinite Earths and Zero Hour. But while these led to some comic series restarting it was far from 52 new titles.
Promo Art from Justice League #1 for the New 52
But I don't want to get into a symposium on the history of comic book reboots. I am here to advise you on the future of comics. And as far as DC's New 52 is concerned I have but two words for you: Pick one!
These stories will be starting fresh meaning you don't need to have an ultra nerd-level of knowledge to read these books. You'll be starting fresh along with everyone else. But that's just a perk. I think the real strength of this reboot is how awesome these books look like they're going to be!
DC has brought out their top talent as well as the hottest young guns in both writing and art. It is far harder to find a comic in this new lineup that isn't awesome, inventive, or exciting than it is to find one that looks bad (Teen Titans *cough cough*). But with 52 books it is a daunting prospect to find the ones that are right for you. So, with that in mind, I've picked out five books that I think look particularly good and would be particularly well-suited to readers old and new!
Written by Grant Morrison, Art by Rags Morales
Interior Art from Action Comics #1
Action Comics #1 was the premiere of Superman way back in 1938. And for almost 75 years it has been ongoing until a few weeks from now when #904 will mark the final issue. Action Comics volume 2 #1 comes out on September 7th. Restarting this title has been the most controversial decision of the reboot. I am not crazy about the idea of restarting this icon and breaking a tradition that has persisted since the first Superman fans gave DC Comics its real start. But despite this concern Action Comics #1 may be able to match the greatness of the first Action.
Grant Morrison is one of the visionaries of the medium. He's been revolutionizing comics since the 1980's as one of the progenitors of Vertigo with his Animal Man series and now he will be the standard-bearer on DC's flagship title. Many are familiar with Morrison's Arkham Asylum and All Star Superman. The latter is one of the best Superman stories ever (coincidentally the former is one of the best Batman stories ever) and the prospect of Morrison continuing to write Superman is tantalizing. He understands the character and embraces the concepts of Superman and all that he represents. Coupled with Rags Morales this book will have an element of humanity and compassion that is seldom seen in mainstream comics. Rags Morales' pencil work is emotive, delicate, and dynamic. Morales' drawings tend to be energetic, with the world and the characters in constant motion. He can capture both pathos and action with sublime skill. If there is a single key to understanding what the New 52 is all about this is it and I guarantee it will be both a pleasurable and rewarding read.
If you liked All Star Superman then Action Comics is a no-brainer.
Writing and Art by J. H. Williams III, Co-Writer W Haden Blackman
Interior Art from Batwoman Elegy
DC Comics has been stressing diversity, edginess, and creativity in regards to the New 52. Few comics will embody these ideals more than Batwoman. As a character Batwoman was created to allay fears of homosexuality between the dynamic duo in the 50's. But this is not the good-girl of the Eisenhower administration anymore. The new Batwoman who premiered in the brilliant 52 (a weekly comic from 2006) is a lipstick lesbian with military training and a penchant for ass-kicking. She is interesting, intense, and stylistic. She was such a hit as a supporting character that she got a year of stories in Detective Comics. With the aid of J H Williams' breath-taking art and layouts Batwoman became a fan-favorite. Now J H Williams' is devoting himself full-time to Batwoman doubling up on writing and art. Williams art is beautiful, engaging, and complex. Using different colors and inks to show the different gothic, technicolor worlds of civilians and superheroes and villains. Batwoman's brooding black-white-and-red colors spill over the pages and set the tone as well as tell the story. A veteran Star Wars comic writer, W Haden Blackman, will be helping Williams with the story and plotting so that the overworked Williams can keep up the monthly schedule. Based solely on Williams' previous work on Batwoman I would wager this will be one of the best books on the market whether it was part of the New 52 or not.
For those of you who enjoyed Promethea, Batwoman would be a great choice.
Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
Written by Jeff Lemire, Art by Alberto Ponticelli
Frankenstein #1 Variant Cover
Jeff Lemire is one of the most talked about up-and-coming comic writers out there today. He made a splash with Essex County, a brooding, sardonic, and artistic work that exuded humor and heart. Then Lemire took Vertigo by storm with Sweet Tooth, a kind of Road Warrior/Bambi story (If you can't imagine what that is then pick it up - You'll see). Now Lemire is coming to the mainstream of DC and he's doing it with a character that is as off-beat and unique as the author himself: Frankenstein. DC's Frankenstein is a philosopher warrior with a penchant for ultra-violence, weapons that range from religious artifacts to James Bond gadgets, and an abiding hatred of evil. Frankenstein's weird, wild world is just waiting for Jeff Lemire. He is currently writing a Frankenstein miniseries in which the titular character kills Hitler in his Berlin bunker at the end of WWII. Now Frankenstein will be working alongside his four-armed "Bride" with the secret supernatural spy organization S.H.A.D.E. (Super Human Advanced Defense Executive). I've only seen italian artist Alberto Ponticelli's art on the Vertigo Unknown Soldier series but his gritty, violent covers always conveyed far more than the bright colors and bold line work initially let on. If there was one under-appreciated Vertigo series from the last few years it is Unknown Soldier and I can only hope that Frankenstein brings Ponticelli the credit he deserves.
If you like Hellboy or the BPRD then Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. is an ideal way to get into the New 52.
Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, Art by Moritat and Jordi Bernet
Cover of All-Star Western #1
Scary Monsters and Super Creeps aren't the only ones riding through the New 52. The adventures of the cowboys of the wild west have been a long-standing part of the DC Universe and now the classic title All-Star Western is back for the first time since 1972. However, this comic is also a case of "Not broke, don't fix it". The team from the popular and ever-cool Jonah Hex series (which will be ending) are picking right up with All-Star Western and paragon DC cowboy Jonah Hex. Hex's adventures will take him to 19th-century Gotham where he will be teaming up with Dr. Amadeus Arkham (founder of Arkham Asylum) to track down Gotham's first serial killer. This story sounds so badass I can barely contain myself. Gray and Palmiotti have been making Jonah Hex the coolest cowboy in media (not just comics, but across all spectrums of cowboy stories) for 70 issues now and there is no indication that they're doing anything but amping it up for the new series. Jordi Bernet is another Jonah Hex veteran having drawn almost 20 issues to wide acclaim by fans and creators alike. Moritat is a new one on me but his name (an allusion to medieval murder ballads) is cool and I really liked what I saw of his art in a few issues of the Spirit. Also, Jonah Hex is only the beginning as All-Star Western will be telling stories from across the DC West from vengeance tales, to shoot-outs, to the weird west, and beyond.
For anyone who is a fan of westerns, I would urge you to give All-Star Western a read; It won't disappoint.
Written by Brian Azzarello, Art by Cliff Chiang
Interior Art from Wonder Woman #1
Brian Azzarello never fails to let his readers down with the brutal, clever, and pulpy tales of both heroes and criminals. The most talked about Batman story of the year has been his three-issue Flashpoint Batman mini-series and this is just the latest in a long list of hardboiled comics. He's done war comics (Sgt Rock), westerns (Loveless), and more than a few superhero comics including Batman, Superman, Luke Cage and more. Every one of these titles have been edgy and intense and now he's turning his unique eye to Wonder Woman. The story seems to be a Gods vs Mortals kind of story (Clash of the Titans-style) with Wonder Woman as the Perseus out to defend humanity from the whims of cruel celestials. Coupled with the art of Cliff Chiang this may be one of the most interesting Wonder Woman comics ever. Chiang was brilliant on the Beware the Creeper miniseries from '03 (despite a less-than-compelling story). He also recently showed the diversity of his character designs when he teamed with Azzarello on the Dr. Thirteen mini-series which featured such a colorful cast as Nazi gorillas, vampires, cavemen, and flying pirate ships. Wonder Woman will be facing off with Gods and monsters and I am sure it will rise to heights of violence and epic conflict to rival the siege of Troy.
Have you read 100 Bullets and can't get enough? Then give Wonder Woman a try.
And in addition to these there are 47 other great new titles that will come out between August 31st and September 28th. If these don't sound like your cup of tea then take my advice: Pick one! This is an exciting time in comics and it's your chance to get in on the ground floor and to get your hands on comics that I bet you'll end up loving. Some other titles that look awesome:
Aquaman - You know, now find out just how awesome he is. Geoff Johns (Blackest Night, Flashpoint) is writing the adventures of the Sea King - This could to be the first popular Aquaman comic ever!
Demon Knights - Etrigan the Demon stars in a sword and sorcery medieval adventure that takes place after the fall of Camelot. Featuring such DC characters as Shining Knight, Mordru, and Madame Xanadu this book looks like epic fantasy at its best.
The Fury of Firestorm - Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch are the odd couple of the superhero world and only together can they become Firestorm the Nuclear Man! Written by Gail Simone (Birds of Prey, Secret Six) and Ethan Van Sciver (Green Lantern Rebirth) this book looks awesome.
O.M.A.C. - The One Man Army Corps is being used as the pawn of Brother Eye against the world peace-keeping organization Checkmate. Dan Didio (DC Grand Poo-Bah) will be writing with the ever-talented Keith Giffen!
Static Shock - The young justice of the DCU is joined by the milestone Static Shock! Alas, poor creator Dwayne McDuffie because were it not for his untimely demise he would be writing this. Scott McDaniel is as good a replacement as I can imagine and I am psyched to have Static as part of the DCU.
Stormwatch - It's the Authority (basically) but with the added bonus of Martian Manhunter! Bad guys prepare to have your asses handed to you in the most vicious manner possible courtesy of Apollo, Midnighter, and the rest of the crew.
And that just scratches the surface of the New 52. There's something for everyone here, you just need to find it!