Best Titles of the New 52

When DC rebooted its entire line of comics in September 2011, it was viewed with trepidation. In the years since, it has proven both successful and a failure. Here are the titles that spun out of the continuity reboot and were unmitigated joys to read. I'm certain I've missed some, as I haven't had the chance to read the entirety of the New 52, and I nearly put in some series that I loved but weren't uniformly terrific (see Resurrection Man, The Movement and Blue Beetle). But I'm happy with this list nonetheless.

List items

  • Jonah Hex, DC's legendary Western gunslinger, teams up with Doctor Amadeus Arkham in the Gotham City of the 1880s to investigate murders related to a secret society. Elements of later Batman mythology are hinted at while the stories unfold like a kickass, actually good version of the "Wild Wild West" movie. It lasted 34 issues before being cancelled.

  • One of the things the New 52 did best was take a chance on less obvious titles. "Animal Man" was an unqualified success, taking the B-list hero and developing an extensive mythology around him, and linking him with fellow cult character Swamp Thing for the wonderful "Rotworld" arc. It was cancelled after 30 issues.

  • Aquaman was a joke. Thanks to Geoff Johns, now he's not. The King of Atlantis has always been a mainstay of DC Comics but still shuffled to the side, but no longer. Johns (and later Jeff Parker, who took the reins after him) made him a force to be reckoned with. Plus, Mera and The Others are great supporting characters that expand his mythology.

  • In previous continuity, Barbara Gordon was paralysed and became super hacker Oracle. In the New 52, her paralysis is undone. It was a controversial decision but Gail Simone pulled it off, re-introducing Barbara as Batgirl but crippled by PTSD instead of physical injury. Simone left the title but it still stands strong.

  • Scott Snyder moved from his acclaimed Pre-52 run on "Detective Comics" to spearheading the Bat-titles. "Night of the Owls", "Death of the Family", "Zero Year" and the current "Endgame" have been well-crafted story arcs befitting the legendary hero. I pity the man who takes over.

  • Despite the New 52 reboot, Grant Morrison continued his sprawling Batman epic, spinning out of previous runs on "Batman" and "Batman and Robin". It doesn't make too much sense if you streamline decades of Batman continuity required for it to make sense into just five years, but when read as part of Morrison's overall Bat-epic, it's a solid conclusion.

  • David Zavimbe was a child soldier who became a police officer, but couldn't handle the corruption, so he took to the streets as a vigilante before catching Batman's eye, getting a Bat-alias (and all the weapons and gadgetry a Bat-ally requires), and taking on the criminals. Unfortunately, Zavimbe retired the Batwing mantle, and it passed to Luke Fox, son of Lucius Fox. Though I preferred the title featuring Zavimbe, Luke has taken up the mantle well. It ended with Issue 34.

  • When Kate Kane became the main character in "Detective Comics", the title was wonderful. The New 52 gave her a series of her own, and it's marvellous. Not just because she's a lesbian crimefighter, but the stories are well-crafted and the art is simply breathtaking.

  • Another unexpected DC titles, "Demon Knights" was written by Paul Cornell, and followed a team - comprised of Etrigan, Madame Xanadu, and Shining Knight, among others - in Medieval Europe. Vandal Savage and Lucifer got involved, and it was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it only lasted 24 issues.

  • DC does Hellboy. A fun and imaginative series by Jeff Lemire, with the legendary titular monster leading a team of other monsters - including a half-human half-fish and an Egyptian mummy - against evil monsters. It wasn't very mainstream and so lasted seventeen issues, but Frankenstein moved to "Justice League Dark".

  • This is a tough inclusion, given it's only just started. But it's a Bat-book, set in Gotham City, that tries to be different. In some ways, it's a happy marriage between "Gotham Central" and the original Vertigo "Hellblazer", with Jim Corrigan / The Spectre leading the Midnight Shift to investigate supernatural occurrences in Gotham. Try out the first issue, it's marvellous.

  • Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing, is outed by supervillains. What's a Boy Wonder to do? Why, fake his death and become a secret agent for a shadowy organisation! It takes Dick Grayson in a whole new direction, picks up leftover elements from Grant Morrison's Bat-epic, and tells an intriguing spy story.

  • Issues #17-#34. The initial run for the Emerald Archer in the New 52 was critically panned, but Jeff Lemire took over and penned what is considered by some to be the definitive run for the character. His run has recently ended and the title has been handed to writers from the Arrow TV series, but these stories are still impressive.

  • Issues #0-#20. There's a lot of hyperbole surrounding Geoff John's work on Green Lantern, but some of it's true. Like Grant Morrison, he was allowed to take a lot of pre-New 52 elements into New 52 continuity, and his run - if read following his Post-Crisis work - is pretty great. The writers since have done a good job, but this is the space epic people have been raving about.

  • Another unexpected title, "I, Vampire" was a reboot of an earlier, shortlived title in the 1980s. Both followed Andrew Bennett, a vampire dealing with his vampirism, and his former lover who has amassed an army of vampires. In a modern world over-saturated with vampire fiction, this was one to read (or just look at, the art is gorgeous). It kept the rest of the DC Universe at arm's length, but for occasional character cross-overs and an event with "Justice League Dark". Sadly, it was cancelled much too soon.

  • John Constantine arrives in mainstream continuity as leader of a Justice League that fights supernatural threats. Other members include Zatanna, Deadman, The Spectre, Timothy Hunter, Frankenstein, Shade the Changing Man, and Swamp Thing. It's so good, Guillermo Del Toro is trying to turn it into a movie. That should say enough.

  • Grant Morrison, being Grant Morrison, never does anything too normal. Instead, he's launched a miniseries of nine one-shots, set on different universes within the DC Multiverse. One focuses on the Captain Marvel family, one on Charlton Comics, another where the Nazis won World War II. It's still going, but I have faith it'll end spectacularly.

  • OMAC was once described as "The Incredible Hulk meets Shazam meets Terminator". It was a fun and fresh title, taking elements of Jack Kirby's DC work to the New 52, but it only lasted eight issues before it was cancelled.

  • A miniseries about Oswald Cobblepot doesn't sound like a winner. But, oh boy, was it. It's a character study with elements of an origin story, backed by great artwork and great writing. One could even say this is for Penguin what "The Killing Joke" was for Joker.

  • James Robinson followed up his legendary "Starman" run with a miniseries about The Shade, a morally ambiguous shadow-controlling Victorian immortal. Its place in New 52 continuity is tricky, given it relies on elements belonging to Post-Crisis DC, but it's a wonderful read. It's made even better if you've read the "Starman" series (which, frankly, you should have already).

  • Superman is, outside of Batman, arguably DC's premier character. Some writers have struggled to pen worthy stories for the character, but in this nine issue series, Scott Snyder - with pencils by Jim Lee - has no trouble. It's not on the same level as other great Superman miniseries, but they usually deal with Superman's origins; instead, Superman faces a new threat that genuinely challenges him. It's a great read.

  • The title mixes superheroics with the grit, horror and weirdness of its Vertigo origins to craft something worth reading. It crossed over with "Animal Man" to great success, and while not as impressive as other legendary runs with the character, it still stands strong.

  • Issues #0-#36. Wonder Woman is a great character but has often struggled to find stories worthy of her. Great writers in the past like Simone and Rucka have succeeded, but Brian Azzarello used the New 52 reboot to tinker with elements of the character, crafting a new take on the Princess of Themyscira that could be the defining run. Azzarello has just left the title and the new writers, though not bad, are not on the same level, so I'm leaving it at this first run.