One Year In: The WINNERS of The New 52

<i>By <a href=http://www.twitter.com/Newsarama/>Newsarama Staff</a></i> <p>With the release a year ago on Friday! of Justice League #1, DC Comics' New 52 began, promising a new beginning for the publisher and its characters alike. Some of those characters came through the relaunch relatively unscathed - The Batman and Green Lantern titles were already quite successful, and received minimal changes - while others had a much more extreme makeover -- even Superman, who got unmarried, a new costume and another updated origin. <p>As we continue our week-long look back at the first year of the New 52 titles, we find that some characters have come out of the reboot looking glass better than ever -- some of the top names have gotten a much-needed facelift, while some obscure figures you might not have ever heard of before are now key parts of the DC Universe. With that in mind, here 10 characters that should be very thankful that The New 52 relaunch happened. <p>Click "start here" in the upper-left corner to start the countdown. <p><a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/one-year-later-worst-of-dc-new-52.html>One Year of DC's the NEW 52: The 10 Worst Things</a> <p><a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/one-year-later-best-of-dc-new-52.html>One Year of DC's the NEW 52: The 10 Best Things</a> <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p> <p>

VIBE

Admittedly, all we've seen of the New 52's Vibe so far has been one silent appearance in DC's Free Comic Book Day 2012 release, and another in this week's Justice League #12, but just the fact that the character has been been revived at all - and as a member of the high-profile Justice League of America, a group made up of "the world's most dangerous" super-heroes, at that - feels like a major victory for the former member of the Justice League Detroit. <p>For years, considered a dud character due to his costume and connection to the breakdancing fad of the mid-80s, Vibe's potential has been glossed over in favor of cheap jokes or just being outright ignored. If his New 52 incarnation can win over new fans, it could be a rescue project even more impressive than Justice League (and future JLA) writer and DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns' earlier successes such as Aquaman, Hawkman and Booster Gold.

ANDREW BENNETT

Twelve months ago, you'd undoubtedly say "who?" about Andrew Bennett, star of I, Vampire. Now, he's ruling over all the vampires in the DC Universe and facing off against not only a zombified team of vampire hunters, but many of DC's darker heroes along the way. <p>Andrew, like a few other entries on our list, is also a symbol for the horror genre within a superhero world. That genre benefited from the relaunch with multiple titles that happened to also be extremely high quality. Andrew's reign over the bloodsuckers may not last forever, but thanks to crossovers with Justice League Dark and guest-appearances from Batman and Stormwatch, he's become an integral part of the DCU. As the vampire threat continues to spread across the DCU as a whole, look for Andrew's star to continue to rise.

SINESTRO

For years, readers were told that Sinestro was the greatest Green Lantern there ever was, before falling from grace and becoming a supervillain -- only problem is, we never actually got to really see him in action as a GL. <p>Writer Geoff Johns made a bold move at the onset of The New 52, placing Sinestro as the lead in flagship GL book Green Lantern and removing Hal Jordan, temporarily, from active duty. With Sinestro once again part of the Corps, fans got to see a very different yet integral part of the character, plus watch the reluctant team-up and begrudging respect between the two nemeses-turned-partners. <p>With the character's apparent death in this week's Green Lantern Annual #1, it would appear that Sinestro's time in the DCU has come to an end for now, at least - He has, after all, come back from the dead before - but even now, his influence will live on with the suggestion that the newest Green Lantern, Baz, will be chosen as the result of a command to find, as he put it, "someone like me... for the good of the universe." After decades as the Green Lantern Corps' greatest villain, could his final act be the one thing that ends up saving free will throughout existence? <p>The only reason Sinestro isn't higher on this list is because Johns had been building him up for years prior to the launch of The New 52, putting him front and center during events like "The Sinestro Corps War."

HUNTRESS

The mantle of "Huntress" used to have a pretty cool hook: She was the daughter of Batman and Catwoman on an alternate earth. <p>But once that alternate world was folded into the main DCU earth, Huntress was re-introduced with a backstory that was much less connected to the better known characters who were once her family. While there were some good Huntress stories over the years, her appearances too often became focused on who she was attracting or dating instead of who she really was. <p>With the relaunch, Huntress is back to being a Wayne, and now she's from an alternate earth again. As a result, DC not only gave the character her own mini-series with the relaunch, but now an ongoing shared with another Earth 2 heroine, Power Girl. It's helped to re-energize interest in the character, and the truth is, we can't wait to see what happens when she meets Selina and Bruce on her new home planet.

ANIMAL MAN

Grant Morrison's late '80s Animal Man run was so influential and definitive, that, in the years following the end of the character's Vertigo series, DC seemed to struggle with what to do with the guy. He would show up here and there, usually during events -- Morrison even revisited him during 52 -- but for the most part, Animal Man was relegated to the background, serving only as a reminder of former heights. <p>As the star of his own New 52 solo series written by Jeff Lemire, Animal Man has become one of the most celebrated components of the relaunch, in a bona fide comic book comeback story. While staying faithful to many aspects of the character -- like Buddy Baker's family life and just generally being a pretty weird book -- Lemire also brought the character to new territory, tying him in to the very fabric of the DC Universe via his connection to "the red."

BATGIRL

The loss of Oracle in the DCU was heartbreaking for a lot of fans, but overall, the mantle of "Batgirl" has benefitted from getting a relaunch. This new Batgirl has most of what made Barbara Gordon so great as Oracle: She's still brilliant, she's still protective of the people she cares about, and she's still super strong-willed. But now we get to see her utilize those abilities while making those fantastic acrobatic moves in the Batgirl suit again. <p>Plus, the title has a strong fan following, giving writer Gail Simone the chance to spend some time with Barbara Gordon in a way she hadn't done in a team book like the former Birds of Prey. So although there was a lot of quality work on stories about girls named Cassie and Stephanie who wore the Batgirl costume, there's obviously something special about returning the redhead to the mantle.

CYBORG

One of the biggest talking points during the initial announcement of The New 52 was that DC wanted their comic books to reflect a more diverse world. <p>One of the main ways they've done that is by establishing Cyborg, an African-American superhero dating back to 1980, as a major part of the Justice League book, right up there with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman. Before the relaunch he had been mainly associated with the Teen Titans, and never much of a star on his own. <p>Since he doesn't have his own solo title, his introduction in the book started gradually, with him as a high school football star hoping for a better relationship with his scientist father. But he's proven to be the heart of the Justice League's newest incarnation, offering not just a common sense attitude and technical know-how, but also a connection to the Fourth World that no-one could have seen coming. All indications are that DC has big plans for the character going forward, and his placement among the icons in all DC promotional material suggests that they're serious.

SWAMP THING

The New 52 has been very good to Alec Holland's green-fingered (not to mention the rest of him) alter ego. Although Swamp Thing was officially returned to the DCU at the end of Brightest Day, the follow-up Search For Swamp Thing fizzled when it should have sizzled, pretty much killing any excitement surrounding the character dead. <p>Thank the Green, then, for Scott Snyder, Yannick Paquette and fellow artists for a series that made Swamp Thing feel more vital, interesting and necessary than he has since Alan Moore's original run, decades earlier. Unlike other attempts to follow Moore, Snyder's writing doesn't seem too awed by what "The Anatomy Lesson" and what followed, but instead takes influence from it where necessary, while also bringing enough of his own flavor to keep it from seeming like a rehash. Visually, Paquette also manages to update the look of the series past the Bissette/Totleben days, but keeps enough of their style (Those page layouts!) to show an awareness and respect for what's come before. Not only one of the best of the New 52 books, the current Swamp Thing is also the kind of revival that'd stand out at any time.

WONDER WOMAN

You can't fault Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang for a lack of ambition. Whereas the other members of DC's Trinity came through The New 52 with cosmetic changes or broken marriages (poor Lois and Clark), Diana's makeover was more obvious -- that new costume! -- and more subtle. <p>The New 52 Wonder Woman lives up to her billing as a warrior princess more than she has done in recent years, while also being sent on the kind of epic adventures that place her firmly in the pantheon of gods and goddesses she's descended from. The two creators -- and Tony Atkins, who rotates with Chiang on art -- have firmly changed the tone and aesthetic of the book, taking it in a unique direction that's at once beautiful and horrific, and seems a million miles away from the character's adventures in the Justice League. For the first time in years, the character gets to be both a superhero and warrior at the same time, depending on what book you're reading, without either side being compromised, and - as anyone who's read Wonder Woman #12 or Justice League #12 already knows - being firmly involved with laying the groundwork for some universe-shaking future plans. No wonder that she's seeing her best sales for years. <p>You've come a long way, baby. Now, please don't kill us for calling you "baby."

AQUAMAN

Everyone knows Aquaman is a joke. I mean, he talks to fish, right? <p>Aquaman's new title launched and took that concept on head-on. The people of the new DCU seemed to think those things, they had the same perception as the general public in the world outside of comics. Then he stuck out his trident and flipped a freaking truck over with it. <p>Now, that might not have instantly won him the love and affection of the entire DC Universe, but it certainly made comic book readers who had laughed at the character in the past take a strong second look. Add in the quality companionship of his wife Mera, a new race of underwater man monsters, and the similar invigoration of his arch-enemy Black Manta, and it's clear that Aquaman gained quite a bit from the relaunch. He's also once again a premiere member of the Justice League, his book is a consistent top ten seller, and slowly but surely he's getting less and less jokes made behind his back about his power set. <p>But he still talks to fish.

One Year In: The WINNERS of The New 52

Date: 31 May 2012 Time: 08:52 PM ET