By The Mighty Monarch 17 Comments
When the New 52 began, I swore to undertake a monumental task, and review every single comic it produced. That proved much more of a task than I could handle, but followers will note I've been pretty damn close, certainly reviewing far more of them than any other reviewer. I DO plan on going back to fill in the gaps I missed to finally have the claim to fame of 'Reviewed the entire first year of the New 52,' but for now I've decided to represent my reading of all of them (save two unfortunate series') with this retrospective look at the entire first year of each series, scoring them overall out of 10. Keep in mind this is subject to opinion, and you may or may not agree with some of my stronger praise or hate; I do tend to go a little overboard with the enthusiasm, but these are still solid representative of what series I did or didn't like.
Action Comics 10/10
It's Grant Morrison. It may not ALWAYS be the most compelling series, but it's classic Morrison, with the underlying genius that Morrison has done what nobody could before. He's modernized Superman. Rebuilt him with modern materials, but using the same blueprints. Rags Morales art is a stunningly perfect fit, and the only real downside is that the co-features are rarely a hit, and clearly just a money grab.
All-Star Western 9/10
Some of the arcs fall a bit short by the end, but there's no denying this series has quality. The art is VERY stylistic and atmospheric for the setting, and the cast is rife with interesting supporting characters. Not to mention a co-feature that both makes sense, and is rarely a miss, and you've got a damn good series on your hands. Also, it's filled with little nods and references that show how much of the DCU was shaped from the past.
Animal Man 9/10
For the first two arcs, this series was nothing short of godlike. The first issue was my favorite of all the first issue in the New 52. Travel Foreman's artwork was utterly terrifying, and insanely stylized. The writing was on the same level, and really emphasized how unique this was, as a balance between Super-Hero, horror, and family drama. Once Foreman stepped down and Steve Pugh took over, this series lost a little bit of it's soul, but not enough to really do any major harm to the quality. It's missing that spark of 'godlike' but is still excellent.
Aquaman is cool. REALLY cool. It just isn't much else. Aquaman is not a thinking man's comic book, but it's among the best of those that know it isn't. A really nice mythology is being built with intriguing characters and smooth artwork. It's just that there's a tendency to have missed opportunities to grasp at that higher plane of quality, in favor of more cool action.
Batgirl 5 or 6/10
Gail Simone, bless her heart, is probably the best female comic writer out there. She won my forever love with the brilliant and disturbing Secret Six. She's a master of both strong character work and skin-crawling creep factor. However, her Batgirl run leaves a lot to be desired. The first arc and the latest one stand out, having some very smartly crafted villains and an excellent understand of how to make the fight scenes hit hard; but the series tends to waver around a sense that it just isn't compelling, and occasionally slips into just bad. And of course, there's the fundamental problem that Barbara just doesn't work as Batgirl anymore.
The current god king of all Batman runs, Scott Snyder is easily a comic emperor. The Court of Owls dethroned Hush as my favorite Batman arc, and already Death of the Family is poised to claim it instead. Grag Capullo's artwork is INTENSE, and Scott Snyder knows how to make amazingly terrifying villains, and powerfully iconic moments for Batman.
Batman and Robin 7.5/10
Had a shaky start, but it's really come around nicely, though possibly up to it's old tricks. What really seems to hold it back is it's tendency to try too hard to make sure it's fitting in with the rest of the Batman books, forcing plot points, or changing itself to make sure it fits the others at the cost of itself. But it's a substitute for a Robin solo series at times, and this is when it shines brightest, because the character moments it gives to the tragic young Damian are powerful indeed.
Batman Beyond Unlimited 8/10
I have to be honest, this score is due in part to my love of Batman Beyond. But if it was an absolutely terrible Batman Beyond, I'd hate it all the more. Batman Beyond needs better art, but it's doing an amazing job crafting storylines with the world it's been given. But that goes up to eleven and then some for Justice League Beyond. It's taken the world and expanded on it to a cosmic scale, and the artwork is utterly perfect. Even Superman Beyond has really nice fitting artwork, and a fantastic emphasis on the world building and how Superman in that timeline differs from usual Superman.
Batman: The Dark Knight 5/10
David Finch's run is just terrible. His usually cool artwork goes for grotesque and cheesy proportions. White Rabbit is exploitation and objectification personified, and the rest of the story takes Knightfall, one of the greatest, most iconic, and vital Batman stories of all time and wipes it's ass with it. TDK's Night of the Owls issue is excellent, and the subsequent takeover by Gregg Hurwitz has been on par. The Scarecrow story feels like it's dragging a bit, but Finch's art is being used more properly, and there's none of the crappy writing. Plus some pretty skin crawlingly creepy stuff, and a phenomenal #0 issue.
Batman Incorporated 10/10
Grant Morrison is on the final stretch of his 5+ Years Batman Epic. Need I say more, honestly?
The first arc drags at the end, but overall the artwork is excellent, supremely atmospheric, and the general tone to distinguish itself from Batman is nice. This series has kind of hit a rut, where it isn't getting bad, really, but it's starting to feel a bit complacent. I kind of know each issue how much to expect, even if I don't predict all the plot elements or twists.
I just abover declared Batman's current run as the god king of Batman, so it's telling to say that Batwoman is my favorite of the New 52. J.H. Williams III is a god class artist, with a mastery of panel layouts that is matched by no other. AND he's managed to master the style of super detail without losing dynamism. And his writing is such a smooth fit with the artwork… it creates an experience with no equal. Even when Amy Reeder took over for a few issues, the artwork was out of this world, but in a different way; although many did not agree there.
Birds of Prey 3/10
For the first few issues it was a series that was solid, but complacent. Nice artwork, interesting characters, and solid storytelling. Then it suddenly threw a firebomb into the pacing and twisted itself into an inescapable knot of a train wreck. A story arc dragged way too far out into 8 issues, and left itself unresolved before whiplashing into a completely different story for one issue, then whiplashing back again into ANOTHER different story. It actually resolved this third one, and the new artist seems really neat, so it might be ready to start clawing its way back out of the pit it dug for itself.
This series was a lot of fun, but frequently frustrating due to the constant artist switching. I actually felt for the characters, but for a series with such a low beginning fanbase, it was building itself far too slowly to survive.
Blue Beetle 10/10
Blue Beetle is channeling the spirit of the mighty Milestone comics. A minority protagonist with such a strong balance between his superhero adventures and his daily life. The artwork is SUPER COOL and it manages to properly juggle a lot of plot elements without causing a slip in quality.
Captain Atom 8/10
The first arc was downright terrible, the art was messy, the direction was vague and strange; and there was a HUGE adjustment from the Pre New 52 military devoted, metallic skinned, nuclear reactor into the Dr. Manhattan clone. And then time travel got introduced, and the series got immensely compelling. It explored all sorts of fantastic philosophical topics but it was too late, the first arc's damage was done; but I would advise giving it a look, try to stomach the first arc in preparation for the glorious second half.
Amazing artwork, even if it has a tendency to embellish the female form. The story is just so raw, powerful, and emotionally intense. There's a rich depth hidden just below the shallow appearing surface that not many seemed to see.
DC Universe Presents 8/10
This series is, by it's very nature, hit or miss. Fortunately it's thus far been more hit than miss. The Deadman story was intensely metaphysical, definitely a 9 at least. Challengers of the Unknown was a very disappointingly dull take on a sadly obscure team. Maybe a 4. Savage was like Silence of the Lambs with some Elektra Complex mixed in. Another 9. There was a Kid Flash one-off that made me wish Teen Titans was that, and the next arc we have yet to see. The Zero Issue had 0-Issue mini stories for 4/6 of the series' cancelled in the second wave.
Deathstroke #1-8 8/10
Higgins' run is excellent. Badass and rich with character depth. Excellent art and a powerful story for the DCU's greatest assassin.
Deathstroke #9-12 1/10
Seriously. **** Rob Liefeld in the eye sockets with flaming dog ****s.
Demon Knights 9/10
Shining Knight is the best damn character. The artwork is PERFECT for the medieval setting, and the setup reads like a smooth D&D game. The characters are varied and EXTREMELY interesting. The plot is full of huge scale elements and connections to Stormwatch, but what still really drives it is the amazing characters.
Detective Comics 6/10
I mean, I love Tony Daniel, but he's not the best writer. He has some great ideas with his whole set of 'New Wave' villains, but he doesn't totally utilize them very well. His artwork is also testing out a new style I'm not super fond of, especially compared to his genius work on Batman R.I.P.
Dial H 11/10
Absolutely freaking bonkers. There's some powerful psychology going on, but that's just the beginning. Below that, and with some artwork phenomenal for the insanity, is mind-blowingly random heroes, and cosmic scale connections on an inter-dimensional level.
Earth 2 9/10
Some IMMESNELY powerful character work goes on in this series. It does an amazing job at being a series about a whole world, and the reimaining of the Golden Age Justice Society of America is sublime.
The Flash 6/10
I KNOW I'm going to catch some flack for this, but seriously, the first arc is full of some incredibly choppy pacing. Francis Manapul is a damn good artist, but he's new to the writing game. He can craft some amazing scenes, but he's terrible at stringing them together. The art is super pretty, and full of amazing panel layouts; but overall the story leaves a lot to be desired. After an entire year, it's definitely improved and FINALLY built to it's first big climax.
Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. 10/10
In the absence of a Doom Patrol series, it was Frankenstein who filled my 'weird superhero' niche. With a tendency to scale monsters far over-the-top; this series just oozed fun. No holds bared as Frankenstein's monster, taking his creator's name for his own, stoically sliced his way through the weirdest things the New 52 could present. He's such a fantastic character and I'm so glad he's getting meshed into Justice League Dark so we don't lose him when his series is cancelled in January.
The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men 7/10
This series had an incredible rocky start, with a pretty awful first issue, and took a bit to trot out a genuinely good one. But once it did, it leapt off into a world of it's own in a unique blend of science fiction and global espionage. Splitting up the main duo was a risky move, but one that proved beneficial as we got into some great emotional pockets and a nice sense of duality as each character explored different corners of the Firestorm world.
G.I. Combat 6/10
As much as I like Unknown Soldier, this series will never truly replace Men of War. It takes a much goofier approach to blending war and superhero genres, leaning more towards the latter in contrast to Men of War. The War That Time Forgot was a simplistic story that relied on action sequences with artwork that was stiff as a board.
Green Arrow 2/10
Green Arrow is perhaps the most bafflingly terrible series in the New 52. At this point it's up to it's third creative team change and only one or two issues have managed to be any semblance of good. Ollie's rebooted character is extremely dull and generic, especially compared to his previous incarnation and even the new show. Krul didn't seem like he cared since his previous Green Arrow story got grounded before it could take off, and Dan Jurgens' artwork wasn't dynamic enough to work for Green Arrow. Nocenti actually has good ideas, but seems to have no grasp of the concept of pacing. THANKFULLY DC's finally going to make sure they get GA to WORK come February when they put Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino on the title.
Green Lantern 8.5/10
Don't get me wrong, I'm a HUGE fan of Geoff Johns' big Green Lantern saga, and I loved the first Sinestro arc, but Secret of the Indigo Tribe and the one issue right before it left a lot to be desired. But overall we've got great art and continued expansion and exploration of the huge Green Lantern mythos Johns has been building for over half a decade. The only concern is that this really isn't for new readers, and I would advise going back through his whole saga to jump on. It's worth it, but really daunting.
Green Lantern Corps 8.5/10
Less appreciated since the relaunch, I've personally found this series to be just as good as before, narrowing its focus a bit, but it's hard for me to complain, personally, because Guy Gardner is hands down my favorite Green Lantern. Lots of intense things are going on with Guy and John, and it's a great companion to Johns' Green Lantern. At the same time, this is probably the most accessible of the Lantern titles.
Green Lantern: New Guardians 8.5/10
Like Corps, a great companion to the main Green Lantern series. This one is a great exploration of the far reaches of the Lantern cosmos, with members from all the various Corps. While Corps is the most accessible, New Guardians is probably the least. It relies on knowledge of all the corps, though conversely it could be seen as a good introduction to them. The art is a inconsistent, but overall there's a lot of nice stuff for Green Lantern fans.
A pretty good series for the first 8 issues, it was solid, but rarely reaching for greater heights. It has such frantic high octane energy, like a primetime drama with a big budget. It wasn't particularly deep, but it was so damn much fun it was hard to truly care. It was odd though, because I always enjoyed the series more in retrospect than in individual reviews, but it was a lot of fun. And then Rob Liefeld took over...
Hawk and Dove 1/10
I really like the characters, but Rob Liefeld..... ugh. Not only did everyone have utterly stupid bodies and 1 to 2 facial expressions, details were not consistent, sometimes not even in the same page!
I, Vampire 11/10
My third favorite out of the entire New 52, I, Vampire is an intense experience like no other. Don't let the first few covers fool you, this is ab.out as far from Twilight as vampires can get. Andrea Sorrentino is an amazing artist, and a very unique one. The artwork is just so raw and intense, and the writing matches up to it. It's perhaps the most amazingly unique title in the New 52, and I'm incredibly happy to see it's outlasted some series' I thought were safer. But it still needs all the readers it can get. Seriously, it's amazing.
Justice League 4/10
Geoff Johns can write Green Lantern, that goes without saying. Geoff Johns cannot, however, write Justice League. The rebooted origin has Batman revealing his identity to Green Lantern within an hour or two of meeting him, piss poor societal reactions, terrible team dynamic.... unbalanced character spotlighting; it's just..... Some issues are great, but most range between terrible and 'meh.' The biggest redeeming factor it has is SHAZAM, because BIlly Batson's new origin story is incredibly emotional and intriguing. It infuriates me to no end that Dr. Sivana was turned into Hipster Lex Luthor, but whatever.
Justice League Dark 8/10
This is pretty much not a 10/10 ONLY because I have to include a judgement of Milligan's run, which was still damn fine and intriguing and compelling and whatnot, but there was just some kind of spark missing. I still have no idea what it was, but Jeff Lemire damn well BROUGHT it. Jeff Lemire rocketed this series into pretty much perfection. It's full of Vertigo leftovers and the obscure magic corners of the DCU.
Justice League International 7.5/10
This one definitely channeled a good deal of energy from the original JLI, with Aaron Lopresti as a great chose for an artist with a style good for a wide range of heroes. Booster Gold was great, and some of the B-Listers from the days of old, no longer B-Listers due to the old JLI, were replaced with new ones in that category. I grew to love the characters, and the character interaction was where this series shined. But the first arc had an odd villain, and the second arc, seeded in the first, really dragged out. Still a shame to see this one cancelled, but the Annual is worth a look because it sets up a lot of threads for stuff coming up in New 52 Year 2.
Legion Lost 8/10
This is one of the most amazing scores on this list, because I have such a seething hatred for the Legion of Super-Heroes. I find them to be SO UTTERLY BORING with their confusing space politics, handful of lame characters and even lame names with all the 'Lads' and 'Lass's', and the fact that there's just too damn many of them. It's impossible to flow right because it seems like every writer is determined to use every single one all the damn time. It's insane. But this series proved that it's the concept holding LoSH back (in my mind of course) because it removed ALL the negative elements; stuck them in the present so there's no space politics, only took in interesting characters, and only took a handful; and it's been one of my higher ranking series' ever since. Tom DeFalco hasn't done as good a job as Fabian Nicieza, but I'm still really bummed to see an end come to the only Legion of Super-Heroes series I EVER liked.
Legion of Super-Heroes 2/10
Pretty much just see above.
Men of War 8/10
A really under appreciated series, this was a heavy modern war comic set in the fantastic world of the DCU. It was fascinated in the elegant way it depicted the supernatural elements through the eyes of soldiers. There wasn't superhero nonsense happening all the time, in fact many times it was something barely involved with them. It was such a unique style with some very pretty artwork in a dark way. Even better was the final issue with Frankenstein in WWII.
Mister Terrific 3/10
The first few issues were pretty good. Well, the first... two? The third issue was an utter train wreck saved only by the artwork, and the series just kind of spiraled the drain until it's timely early demise.
This series has fluctuated pretty weirdly. The first few issues opened up a serious can of worms, but then proceeded to juggle it around and head towards a conclusion that seemed to have no escape from cliche; and then at the last minute demonstrated exactly what the twist was on the cliches, delivering an epic conclusion. And the artwork always has such a great sense of acrobatics, dizzying arcs and circles and flips. But then it's Night of the Owls tie-in had a twist to Dick's name that I found pretty forced, and since then it's just not really grabbed me. Death of the Family MIGHT be able to reignite it, but right now it's probably one of the weakest in the Batman Family.
This series got a TON of undeserved hatred. I'm not always a fan of Keith Giffen's artwork, but I felt this was one time where it worked. O.M.A.C. was also accused of being a Hulk clone. Sure they're both muscled men with limited control and a penchant for smashing, but they wrestled with far different issues. Hulk struggles with controlling his rage, while O.M.A.C. struggled with BEING controlled by a superpowerful A.I. It wasn't super deep, but it was a ton of fun and Brother I and Maxwell Lord.
The Ravagers 6/10
This series started out with a lot of potential, and a good vent to diffuse some of the overload in Teen Titans, but it's kind of wallowed and stagnated in a mess of over dramatic angst and an inconsistent artist schedule. It's not exactly bad at this point, but it's hard to be excited about it. The writer is changing, and Ig Guara, one of my favorite artists fresh off of Blue Beetle, is taking over the art duties; so maybe they'll reignite the spark this series began with.
Red Hood and the Outlaws 8/10
This is definitely a flashy high energy kind of series, but it rocks it well and isn't ashamed. Kenneth Rocafort's artwork is GORGEOUS and had so much fun playing around with the layouts. It tends to scrape the edge of depth before edging away, but it's such a damn fun ride that I consistently enjoy.
Red Lanterns 4/10
This series had a good bit of potential, but frequently squanders it. It spent the entire first year stretching out a story far beyond its limits, contorting into a grotesque shade of its former self. Ed Benes handled the art for most of the first year, and the man cannot draw Bleez without oversexing the hell out of her. And the few interesting bits of story got thrown in tiny bits in favor of the groaningly back and forth stretched bits of the rest of the mess. And then the Star Sapphires showed up for some of the last few issues of the first year and got reduced to some awful female stereotypes.
Resurrection Man 8.5/10
I REALLY loved the concept for this series, I'm a sucker for a well written 'immortal protagonist' series, and this one had all sorts of intriguing hooks. But after the first few issues it kind of lost touch with itself, but rekindled it in #7; but overall it always seemed like it was missing a little something. I think Abnett/Lanning were playing it a bit too safe, but I'm still really sorry to see this end. But I would probably recommend the original series over this one. It lasted much longer, and went a little deeper. But this one was an interesting reinvention of the old one.
The Savage Hawkman 6/10
I'll be honest, this is one of the two series I've fallen behind on, but this one just got unlucky as opposed to Legion of Super-Heroes which I loathe. I LOVE Philip Tan's artwork, but Tony Daniel's writing wasn't quite up to par. Still, there was some pretty badass stuff going on, and what I've seen of Joe Bennett's artwork looks like a good fit, though I know Rob Liefeld was writing for a few issues...
This series always feels like it should be a lot better than it is. The characters are super interesting, but no writer thus far seems to be capable of properly handling all of them. Paul Cornell had a surprising tendency to overuse exposition, but his story had drive and direction. Peter Milligan has been floundering about in one issue arcs that take a neat idea and let it fizzle, while slowly giving bits and pieces of the main story far too distant in between. There's still a lot of nice stuff, but this fuzzy direction and inconsistent art schedule; not to mention Apollo and Midnighter getting ALL the spotlight with Jack Hawksmoor getting ABSOLUTELY NONE OF IT; has really taken a toll on this series.
Suicide Squad 2/10
This series had some damn good issues here and there, and screw all the haters, the new Harley Quinn is the same Harley we know and love; and that costume is totally in character for her. Throwing herself at Deadshot however, is not. King Shark is great though, but not as much as in Secret Six. And the art's very inconsistent. But the REAL kicker is the complete and utter decimation of one of the absolute best characters of the DCU, Amanda Waller. I've ranted about this plenty, go to almost any of my SS reviews, but basically they turned a powerful confident imposing figure, cold as ice and the biggest badass the world had ever seen; into a skinny empathetic so-so stereotypical action girl. Just.... so much rage. Not to mention this Basilisk thing has been dragged out utterly painfully, and the one interesting thing they had going on ended up with the most insanely predictable result.
Superboy has been WAY too stuck tying itself to Teen Titans, without taking time to explore its own identity as a solo series. It many times feels like it's just a vessel to dump what can't fit in Teen Titans. Even once it started to free itself, it got muddled in a confusing mess of a supporting cast with sub-par stories and a weird sense of direction.
I hadn't expected a whole lot from this series, but it's proven to be one of the best of the Superman family. Supergirl's self exploration on a worl where she doesn't understand the language has been an almost adorable journey of innocence and loss. The artwork is always smooth and satisfying, even if a few issues don't quite measure up to par.
Grant Morrison's been taking all the Superman quality or something because his self titled series has been an utter train wreck. It's an interesting parallel to Batman being amazing and Detective Comics being just so-so. But Detective Comics was at least decent. George Perez's arc was utterly atrocious, chock full of far too much dialogue, much of it horrendously forced and redundant, and the story was a terrible exploration of Superman's effect crammed down your throat. Then Dan Jurgens took over and the series took a rise, and then fell again back into, not quite as awful, but just pretty bland. Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort delivered a solid Zero issue, so I'm looking forward to them hopefully invigorating this series finally.
Static Shock 6/10
I'm usually a defender of Scott McDaniel's artwork, but he just wasn't a good fit for Static, and his writing was cliche and cheesy. John Rozum TRIED to keep things held together, and pushed the rest of Milestone in, but his ideas were frequently ignored and he left the series to die off under McDaniel's so-so direction. It's not exactly terrible, but not worth it for casual Static fans, though there are a few hidden gems for Milestone alumni.
Swamp Thing 10/10
Scott Snyder deals us a second masterpiece in addition to Batman. While this isn't QUITE as good, it's NOT something to be overlook. With a strong tie to Animal Man, Swamp Thing has built a masterful sense of dark tone and powerful character work. The new love being built between Abigail Arcane and the true Alec Holland is immensely heartwarming, and the way it plays around with the continuity from Moore's run is surprisingly not restricting to new readers. Yannick Paquette's artwork is beautiful even when grotesque, and Marco Rudy is a MASTER of inventive panel layouts. And the two artists have the ONLY inconsistent schedule I've ever seen work; and actually it works to the series' advantage.
Teen Titans 6/10
This Teen Titans incarnation is always playing it risky, drastically reinventing the characters and elements. Wonder Girl just annoys the hell out of me, where previously Cassie won me over Pre-New 52. And the romance between her and Superboy is horrendously forced where it doesn't work between the radically different versions of these characters from before. There's an interesting supporting cast of new characters, but they tend to get ignored. This is the forefront for the N.O.W.H.E.R.E. story, but it's rarely the best. Brett Booth also has a style that I just don't enjoy, but can't say is genuinely bad.
The first four issues, under Ron Marz's scripting, were an absolute MASTERPIECE. Amazing levels of subtlety, suspense, minimalism in internalizing the main character, moral grayness and uncertainty. And then they kicked him off and Josh Williamson radically shifted the direction of the series, shoving in hard sci-fi in way over-the-top doses, and a dizzying overdose of one massive plot twist after another; with most of the major ones making absolutely no sense and contradicting Marz's issues. Eventually it settled out of the rut of pissing me off for stomping Marz's run into the ground, but at that point is was never anything more than so-so.
Wonder Woman 10/10
Brian Azzarello has made me so interested in a character I was apathetic to for YEARS. Wonder Woman is near the top of my list, because the storytelling is so compelling, with brilliant interpretations of the Greek Pantheon, and a great sense of a dysfunctional rich family using shady interfamilial politics in a fight for the throne in the absence of the king. And Wonder Woman's place in all this is one of pure compassion for the unwilling caught up. She's an amazing badass, but such a deep character. And Cliff Chiang's art is excellent, and Tony Akins is even coming around.
Worlds' Finest 4/10
Power Girl and Huntress are returned to their Earth 2 origins, but this series seems to rely on you being a fan of the characters. I'm not, but I was hoping to be won over. But nothing's done to try and endear you to the characters, and the first arc has a story that starts out ok, but starts to drown in utter dullness. I'm also not really a fan of George Perez's artwork, I think his style is very stiff and stale. Kevin Maguire does the flashback art, which is weird because his style is more modern and dynamic. And they got rid of Power Girl's boob window, but her clothes get torn off like every issue! The zero issue was surprisingly emotionally potent, but otherwise this series is pretty much just bland and boring.