You're the Best... Around1 of 12We've been looking at the first two years of the New 52, post-Villains Month, starting with The Biggest Surprises of the reboot, then checking out what didn't work with the Worst of the reboot.
Today we flip over on the theme by looking at the best things to come out of the New 52. While there are many contentious changes and things we have strong negative opinions of, tonight we look at what's been done right.
The Newsarama staff, from Best Shots reviewers to interviewers to editors, all chipped in to decide what the best overall themes (and a couple of specific examples) of two years of 52 have been.
Cliff Chiang's Art on Wonder Woman2 of 12From Diana’s broad stance to the designs of the Old and New Gods to the striking cover art – Cliff Chiang’s art on Wonder Woman is unparalleled and exquisite. So much so, it’s one of only two very specific entries on this list.
There have been many talented artists to draw Wonder Woman along the way – Aaron Lopresti, Nicola Scott, Rags Morales to name a few, and all have drawn Wonder Woman well. But Chiang defines the character aesthetically in a way that hasn’t been done since George Perez. Chiang gives new meaning to the idea of a beautiful warrior, and she is often times the most remarkable art on the page.
And with each introduction to a god, Chiang’s clever creativity is displayed in haunting clarity. His Old Gods are strange and interesting: Demeter’s flowing head of leaves and vessel like green skin or War as a wearied caricature of Brian Azzarello. His New Gods (and their New Genesis toys) are crisp and nostalgic, capturing the energy of Kirby’s designs while still being new. Cliff Chiang’s range of talent seems boundless and DC did well by putting him on a book that affords him the opportunity to display it.
YAY for Young People3 of 12In the wake of the Occupy movement, DC solicited The Movement and The Green Team: Teen Trillionaires. The two books, being of separate creative teams but acting as idealistic foils, were released in the same month. At first glance, they seemed like an overwrought attempt at relevance and destined to die of cliché – but these two additions to the New 52 are not only relevant, but bold and entertaining.
Gail Simone is clearly telling the story she wants to tell in The Movement, and that kind of creative license has lent to new and brave characters unlike anything we've seen in the DCU. Despite its verbose and campy title, Art Baltazar, Franco and Ig Guara have captured a youthful and colloquial spirit that sets The Green Team apart from other comics.
As it turns out, these books are foils to each other – The Movement is edgy and fighting for the underdog. The Green Team is bright and telling the story of the privileged. The one thing they do have in common is the generation of their characters. They’re part of a young, diverse and hyper plugged-in culture. With trend and technology on their side, here’s to these kids getting the following they deserve. In fact, it's the sign of a larger theme we like...
They’ll Try Just About Anything4 of 12Love the concepts or hate them, the New 52 has given a chance for creators to take a shot at trying to make a character who might normally be out of bounds popular enough to sustain a series. While most of these have failed to get past a year’s worth of stories, it showed bold thinking on DC’s part to give them the green light.
Every wave has featured at least one such title. We got OMAC in the opening line-up, with Dan Didio, Keith Giffen, and Scott Kollins romping along with their over-the-top Kirby pastiche. Later series included Sword of Sorcery (resurrecting Tumblr-favorite Amethyst), GI Combat (an attempt at a war anthology), and Threshold (based on cosmic stories). Currently, Larfleeze by Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kollins is probably the best example (and showing that Giffen is behind a lot of these attempts).
Can books like Green Team: Teen Trillionares find a niche in the comics-buying world or will it share the fate of Blackhawks, Dial H and other back-catalog properties? No matter what, DC should be given a lot of credit for seeing if there’s interest in books that don’t have as much strong name recognition but do have potentially good stories to tell.
B-List Titles Are Hardly That5 of 12In theme with the last couple of entries, it's been nice to see other heroes get the spotlight in the New 52.
With keeping 52 titles afloat, not everything can be Green Lantern, Batman, or Superman-related. Books like Constantine, Vibe, and Katana are great examples of solo books that feel like the old DCU where almost anybody could lead an ongoing because of their strong creative team behind it. The New 52 has been sprinkled with gems along the way to break up the Supes and Bats spin-offs, and the fact that DC still aims to explore every nook and cranny of their new Universe is warranted enough for applause.
Behold, The Court Of Owls6 of 12One of the centerpieces to the success of DC’s “New 52” has been Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s work in the pages of Batman. Taking cues from Snyder’s earlier work on the character pre-“New 52,” he and Capullo have really brought the Dark Knight into a new era – an era haunted by owls.
With the introduction of the organized crime group the Court of Owls, Snyder and Capullo have made a bold new addition to the Bat mythos and to the larger DCU. From their first mention in Batman #1 to the “Court of Owls” and broader “Night of Owls” story-arcs, this ancient Gotham conspiracy has been brought into the light and even went as far as launching a new standalone series with Talon earlier this year.
This Court has been in session for less than two years in real time, but it’s easy to see how they’ll quickly become a key part of the DCU the same way in-story they’re a pillar of Gotham City.
The “New” Creators of the New 527 of 12When the “New 52” was launched in August 2011, it promised new adventures, new takes and new costumes for DC’s pantheon of super-heroes. But in actuality, it seems the most long-lasting change amongst the “soft reboot” of the DC superhero line has been the welcome array of new creators into the DCU fold. Now two years into this relaunched line, we’re seeing new creators continue to surface on various existing and new books, both in the writing and the drawing, that have never done a Big Two book before.
One of the biggest success stories coming out of this has been the ascent of Matt Kindt, one-time indie graphic novelist, into a growing part of the DC line-up – writing a back-up to Justice League of America, doing Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. as well as taking over Suicide Squad shortly. Joining him are other fresh faces in the writing pool are Charles Soule, Christy Marx, Van Jense, Robert Vendetti, James Tynion IV, Ray Fawkes and Justin Jordan.
And on the art side, the advent of the “New 52” planted the seeds for what is now a bumper crop of talent not many people knew about before August 2011. Chris Burnham has come into his own in a big way on Batman, Inc., and Andrea Sorrentino segued from I, Vampire to Green Arrow and become one of the most unique artists in DC’s talent pool. Also you have the Mikel Janin who has quietly become an artist’s artist with his work on Justice League Dark in terms of style, consistency and staying on schedule. Lastly, you’re beginning to see DC draft in some notable names from outside the Big Two ballpark like Marcio Takara for guest issues that hopefully will turn into something more.
Letting Go of Old Continuity8 of 12The New 52 gave writers who took advantage of it a chance to ignore the bonds of strict continuity and find new ways to bring villains and heroes alike into the DC Universe. The most obvious example, Earth-2, found James Robinson building up an entire alternative world that used the classic Golden Age heroes built upon in a way that gave them relevance none of the old guard had seen in years. The decision to change Alan Scott’s sexuality was handled with taste, and reversing the role of these heroes - they’re the ones learning from DC’s Trinity, not the other way around - works very well.
Within the primary DC earth, however, there are plenty of examples of changing things around in ways that are innovative and spur new and daring stories. Flash writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccelato wasted no time, tying the introduction of Grodd into the speed force and creating a new dynamic for his battles with Barry Allen. The biggest one of all is the new origin for Wonder Woman, which has expanded to include a reworking of the DC Greek Gods and a major status change for Diana.
Not all the changes worked (Starfire, anyone?), but DC’s willingness to allow creators freedom to branch out and experiment, even when they knew a fair percentage of the fan base would be angered by the changes, has led to some incredibly entertaining stories.
Closer Families of Titles9 of 12Before the reboot, there was a concerted effort to make one, big DC Universe – and that’s a good thing, however, it can also lead to some loss of identity for each individual group of characters.
DC defined the groups in the New 52 from the start, and has held onto that notion – think of it like building blocks. Here, the Green Lantern family, the Superman family, the Batman family – they were each allowed to build their own cohesive corners of the DC Universe, with small crossovers helping them interact directly while finding their own feet.
This all, of course, leads to today, two years later, when the first linewide event has hit, and the timing doesn’t feel rushed, it feels right. Ironically, they created a more cohesive universe by keeping it separated.
Integration of Vertigo Heroes10 of 12Once upon a time, Vertigo was the imprint that took existing DC characters and made them into something more. Now, it’s the main line’s turn to give a new chance at life for creations that had stagnated a bit at the edgier end of the spectrum. Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and perhaps most notable of all, John Constantine, were integrated into the New 52 and given prominent roles. These links had always theoretically existed, but now they were explicit, as Superman visited Alec Holland and Constantine schemed to borrow the power of Shazam.
The biggest surprise here has to be Constantine. Hellblazer was a signature book for Veritgo, running 300 issues. His manipulative nature and complete amorality make him a difficult fit for a superhero role if he’s not going to be a villain. Rather than try to change that, he’s being written as the same character, who now must deal with forces even he can’t trick and adjust to the fact that everyone from Amanda Waller to Zatanna are watching him.
Whether it’s putting the Books of Magic in Justice League Dark or getting behind Swamp Thing in a big way by giving it to superstar Scott Snyder, DC has shown that they not only wanted to bring some of their lost sheep back into the fold of the DCU, they had a plan to do it right. Two years in, this is one of the things working best for the New 52.
The DC Brain Trust11 of 12In DC continuity, there exists a group of characters that observes and organizes all aspects of the Multiverse called the Monitors. Here in the real world, those tasks can’t just be handled by editors – even editors who are writers – and in the wake of the “New 52” a new crop of lead writers inside the DCU has emerged. This unofficial DC Brain Trust is a mixture of long-time DC creators as well as more recent additions who have risen quickly through the ranks to be a key part in their top selling books. In this unofficial quartet, it seems to be Geoff Johns, Scott Snyder, Greg Pak and Jeff Lemire.
Between Snyder, Pak and Johns, these writers account for all of DC’s top 10 tiles for the month of July, and Lemire is quickly coming to the fore as a key part of the DCU taking over Justice League of America (as Justice League of Canada), co-writing “Trinity War” and writing both Green Arrow and Animal Man.
Now DC doesn’t need to have a formalized group of top writers the way Marvel has had recently with its architects. But with the relative fluidity in terms of creators coming in and out of DC otherwise, these four are emerging as a pillar of what DC has planned for 2013 and beyond.
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