About a year and a half ago, after DC Comics had announced their New 52 titles but before any of them had been released, I wrote a two-part column called "52 Words on 52 Titles" which, you guessed it, gave my take on each of the 52 new titles in 52 words or less.
Re-reading these columns now, it's interesting and amusing to see especially the confusion that existed early in the process -- I make references to some titles continuing from Brightest Day, for instance, which as we know didn't happen.
I didn't note it at the time, but Collected Editions has now reviewed all the DC New 52 Volume 1 collections (with two exceptions); we've reached our first anniversary, of sorts, of the DC New 52. To recognize this, what follows is 52 more words on the first New 52 titles -- the original 52 words, followed by a 52-word retrospective in italics, either commenting on my initial thoughts or discussing how the title ultimately shaped up.
Part two will be up on Thursday. Please share your thoughts on the first year of the New 52 in the comments.
1) Justice League by Geoff Johns & Jim Lee
One of the titles for which I’m most excited. Been waiting for the iconic Justice League to return since Barry’s resurrection and Blackest Night; plus, one imagines a Geoff Johns/Jim Lee title should be a Hush-level bestseller.
I still like this book -- always a quick, interesting read -- though I'm not sure it's been the Hush-level bestseller DC expected it to be. Not sure the book's had its breakout story just yet.
2) Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang
You all know I’m a fan of Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman; the character faltered a bit after that, before Gail Simone started, and then again after she left. Hoping Azzarello’s run is a long-term take on Wonder Woman, and he won’t be gone after the first few issues like Allan Heinberg.
Azzarello's take on Wonder Woman has really left its mark on me. I'm happy for him, with Cliff Chiang, to stay on this book forever. The first two volumes have been great; even challenging the basic tenets of the character has been worthwhile.
3) Aquaman by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis
Aquaman deserves his due respect after a number of not quite on-the-nose attempts, and if anyone can give him that, it’s Geoff Johns. I wonder what Johns’s “in” will be for his brand of character-driven story using Aquaman.
The first Aquaman volume was enjoyable but I'm eager to read The Others and Throne of Atlantis. As with Justice League, Johns has a great take on Aquaman, but the title hasn't had its Sinestro Corps War moment yet.
4) The Flash by Francis Manapul & Brian Buccallato
In terms of the DC Relaunch overall, I am somewhat hesitant about the number of new artist-writers, simply in that they’re unknown quantities. I’m glad Manapul is still drawing Flash, but this is one that worries me. Also that Wally West might be the villain.
My fears couldn't have been more unfounded on this one. Manapul (with Buccallato) as writer-artist on Flash has been an inspired combination (I'd be curious to see Manapul just write, not draw an issue, and see how it holds up a la Batwoman sans Williams).
5) The Fury of Firestorm by Gail Simone, Ethan Van Sciver & Yildiray Cinar
Of all the DC characters, I haven’t previously been much of a Firestorm fan, mainly due to lack of access. I’ll sample this -- especially with Gail Simone writing, and I’m curious to see Ethan Van Sciver draw her words [edit: Van Sciver is co-writing Firestorm; art is by Yildiray Cinar, whose work I really liked on Teen Titans: Ravager. No, this edit doesn't count for the fifty-two words]. My hope is this still has a tie to Brightest Day.
One of the top disappointments of the New 52. Firestorm is maybe one of DC's top-tier teen heroes outside Robin and the Teen Titans; it's unfortunate they can't get him right. Can the reboot get a reboot, go back to Ronnie (or Jason!) and Professor Stein in high school drama?
6) Green Arrow by J.T. Krul & Dan Jurgens
This is a seemingly “dark” book, but with Dan Jurgens drawing; usually I don’t equate Jurgens with “dark.” J.T. Krul continues from the previous Green Arrow series, and this is one where it’ll just depend on the story for me. Also curious whether Black Canary relationship is still in continuity.
Another one that stumbled out of the gate, though as of issue #17 this finally seems on track with Lemire and Sorrentino. Not sure how much "continuity-so-far" Lemire will preserve, but this is what Firestorm needed, a soft-type reboot.
7) Justice League International by Dan Jurgens & Aaron Lopresti
One of my top picks for the DC Relaunch. I have a soft spot for Jurgens’s Justice League in the early 1990s that featured many of these characters, and I’m excited for Jurgens to use them again with a more serious take.
Aw. I had such high hopes for this one. Unfortunately Justice League International was not a more serious take on these characters, and I think it never quite meshed with the rest of the line. Any time DC wants to launch a Booster-Guy Gardner-Fire-Ice team, I'm there.
8) Mister Terrific by Eric Wallace & Robert Robinson
I liked Eric Wallace’s Final Crisis: Ink a whole lot, and then was nothing but disappointed with his Titans: Villains for Hire. This could go either way -- either Wallace writes the Mr. Terrific we know and love, or Titans’s blandness creeps in. Checking this out with fingers crossed.
Wallace wrote a faithful, respectful take on Mr. Terrific that remains one of my favorite first collections of the New 52 -- wasn't enough to save the series, though. Haven't heard James Robinson has done much yet with Terrific in Earth 2, but I hope he uses him.
9) Captain Atom by J.T. Krul & Freddie Williams III
I don’t mind a new spin on Captain Atom; he’s one of those characters that pretty desperately needed a definitive relaunch. Freddie Williams’s art doesn’t always appeal to me personally, and I’ll be curious whether J.T. Krul can make the series interesting to me irrespective.
Krul and Williams both did well for themselves on this one, in a Captain Atom by way of Dr. Manhattan story that was out there but not too out there. For me, however, the first trade meandered too much, and I might've dropped it if the second trade wasn't the last.
10) DC Universe Presents by Paul Jenkins & Bernard Chang
Notably we don’t know much about this series, really, but solicitations promise to follow Deadman’s story from Brightest Day, so I’m in for the first collection, at least.
I know, I know that stories that don't "matter" should matter, but the inaugural Deadman and Challengers stories both felt like taking a car out of the garage but never really revving the engine. I'm looking forward to the Kid Flash one-shot and such, but I'm not sorry this is cancelled.
11) The Savage Hawkman by Tony Daniel & Philip Tan
Here’s another artist-writer I worry about; Tony Daniel did great work on Batman: Life After Death, but not so much on Battle for the Cowl, and I have not enjoyed Philip Tan’s art previously. I’ll try the first book in part to see how DC works out Carter Hall’s new origin.
It's equally astounding how a clean break for Hawkman, what this character desperately needed for twenty some-odd years, also ended in mayhem and confusion. Carter Hall, archeologist, pair of wings -- it doesn't need to be more complicated. Hopefully after some time in JLA DC can launch this one again.
12) Green Lantern by Geoff Johns & Doug Mahnke
Of course I’m in for this one. DC seems to be trying to suggest Hal Jordan might not be the Green Lantern of the book, but we all know better. Hope there’s minimal interruption between this and the previous series.
Who knew the DC New 52 Green Lantern would be the beginning of the end of Geoff Johns's run? The second volume, Revenge of the Black Hand, was a prime example of this book's glory; I'm looking to the "Third Army" events with excitement and sadness.
13) Green Lantern Corps by Peter Tomasi, Fernando Pasarin & Scott Hanna
Peter Tomasi has been knocking Green Lantern Corps out of the park, at times even better than Geoff Johns (see Emerald Eclipse). No question I’m in for this one, either.
The first new Green Lantern Corps book didn't work for me -- sadly, since this had once been my favorite book. I was eager to see Joshua Fialkov come onboard, and now that's not happening. I'll watch early reviews; if the new direction doesn't work, I might give it a pass.
14) Green Lantern: The New Guardians by Tony Bedard, Tyler Kirkham & Batt
In considering former DC editors-turned-writers, I have not been as high on Tony Bedard’s work as I have Peter Tomasi’s. There’s a right and wrong way to write Kyle Rayner -- one is strong and sensitive, and the other is just sensitive, to a whiny fault. Hopeful Bedard gets it right.
My guilty pleasure reading. In the first volume, the art misused these characters, but the writing worked in a corny, sitcom-y fashion. Basically I just like seeing the different-colored lanterns together; I'm a tad impatient for the next volume to come out this summer.
15) Red Lanterns by Peter Milligan, Ed Benes & Rob Hunter
I liked Peter Milligan’s work on Infinity Inc., I know his reputation as a Vertigo contributor, and I’m excited for his “Dark” books. Red Lanterns seems an unlikely series, but I’m curious what Milligan will do. Ed Benes art often garners criticism, but it doesn’t give me pause for trying this.
The first volume didn't move me; I'm reading the second mainly to be caught up for the Green Lantern crossovers. I don't mind Guy Gardner as the rumored new lead for this book, but I'm high on the animated series and I wish they'd just break down and let this star Razer.
16) Batman by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo
Overall I’m least excited for the Batman titles. Moving Scott Snyder from Detective to Batman doesn’t shout “new” to me, nor am I familiar enough with Snyder to appreciate his writing Batman #1 (as opposed to Grant Morrison or George Perez re-starting the Super titles). I’ll see how it goes.
Was wrong about this one. Just re-read Snyder's Batman #1 and of all the New 52 first issues, Batman #1 felt most like a real introduction for this "new" Batman character -- all his relationships, and all the tech. Obviously this one's a star of the New 52.
17) Detective Comics by Tony Daniel
I feel the same here. Tony Daniel’s writing has been hit-or-miss for me, and I don’t feel he’s distinguished himself enough to be writing Detective Comics #1. Grant Morrison has made plain Batman-fighting-villains in Gotham stories seem too small for Bruce Wayne, and that’s what this seems like.
Indeed Daniel's first Detective Comics collection was both hit and miss. I'm not sure I get what this title is about yet, other than "the Batman title that isn't Batman." New writer John Layman has a good reputation, so I'll be around to read some of his issues.
18) Batman & Robin by Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleeson
This is the former Green Lantern Corps team, so I know they can produce eye-popping comics; according to solicitations, this book also reflects events of Batman Inc. I’m not excited about a book where Bruce Wayne is a dick to his son for twenty pages, but I’m more optimistic about this.
I love the Tomasi/Gleason team, and from what I hear they have good stuff coming up on this title. I quibbled a bit with some characterizations in the first collection, but to pick up the trade and just read it on its own, again, good stuff.
19) Batman: The Dark Knight by David Finch & Jay Fabok
A fourth Batman title, especially without the distinction of being the team-up book or such, seems wholly unnecessary to me, as does restarting David Finch’s title after only five issues. Just the fact that this, too, ties to Batman Inc. raises it above Batman and Detective in my opinion.
Another guilty pleasure. David Finch's female figures are too routinely cheesecake-y for me, but there's no denying the dynamism of his overall work, especially when he draws the larger DC Universe. I've debated pre-ordering this one from my local comics shop, but I'm probably going to do it.
20) Batwoman by J.H. Williams III, Haden Blackman & Amy Reeder
I’m glad, as I’m sure many are, that this book finally sees the light of day. That the solicitations mention Kate Kane’s cousin Bette make me hopeful that, when collected, the first collection will also include Greg Rucka’s Bette Kane-centered three-part story “Cutter.” Of course I’m getting this one.
When the Batwoman title is on, it's really on -- redefining, page by page, how a DC comic looks. Unfortunately, the last collection lacked JH Williams's art, and it brought down a good story. Glad he's back for the next volume, but I'm curious what the volume after will be like.
21) Batgirl by Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf & Vicente Cifuentes
I’m getting this one, too. I know the controversy and I’m sympathetic to all sides -- torn, really -- but it comes down to this: if there’s anyone out there who can make this work, it’s Gail Simone. I’ll pick this up at least in part to support Simone taking the risk.
Gail Simone nailed this one, no question, and dare I say her Batgirl now is better than the last days of Oracle pre-Flashpoint. I'm thrilled she's remaining on this book; really I can't imagine anyone else writing this title but Simone.
22) Birds of Prey by Duane Swierczynski & Jesus Saiz
I like Jesus Saiz’s art, but writer Duane Swierczynski is an unknown quantity, and I don’t love the idea of a rebooted Black Canary with some unknown partner (it also looks like Poison Ivy and maybe new character Voodoo here). I’ll sample this, but I’m not sure I’ll keep up with it.
Maybe the biggest, best surprise of the New 52. Duane Swierczynski knew what Birds of Prey was about from the beginning, and all the characters -- but especially Starling -- sing. It's too bad Swierczynski is already off this title, but I'm eager for the second collection of his issues.
23) Catwoman by Judd Winick & Guillem March
Certainly I wish it were Ed Brubaker writing this, and Guillem March’s always-unzipped costumes seem the wrong direction to take this title. I like Judd Winick’s work, however, and that gives me some peace of mind here; I’m rooting for Winick to deliver something that respects the Catwoman character.
A bizarre, certainly memorable take on Catwoman by Winick. I probably liked this book more than most people, but I'm twisted like that. After Ann Nocenti's Green Arrow issues, I have trepidation about her taking over this book; I may not be around long if the ties to JLA aren't strong.
24) Nightwing by Kyle Higgins & Eddy Barrows
I don’t know Kyle Higgin’s writing; Eddy Barrows’s art has not been my favorite, though he did well recently on War of the Supermen. The red costume with blue highlights concerns me, too. Lots of eyes will be watching the Nightwing title when DC relaunches; here’s hoping for good things.
High praise for Higgins: his first Nightwing trade could be the best the series has been since Chuck Dixon. There's some strangeness coming up with Dick moving out of Gotham, but I have faith in what Higgins does; hope he sticks around on Nightwing for a while.
25) Red Hood and The Outlaws by Scott Lobdell & Kenneth Rocafort
This is such an outrageous concept that I’m very excited to see how it manifests itself. In interviews, Scott Lobdell seems solid in his description of this book as one about the redemption of Red Hood and the other characters, so I’ve heard nothing to cause concern so far.
If it weren't for the first issue's controversies, this would be a great buddy comedy series. Many readers are hard on Lobdell but I didn't find much to fault with in the first book; Red Hood is changing writers, but I'm happy to see the series continue awhile with these characters.
26) Batwing by Judd Winick & Ben Oliver
Again, I like Judd Winick’s work. He handled international issues and locales well in Outsiders. And I’m not an advocate that writers must have personal experience to write convincingly. But Winick writing the adventures of the first black Batman, set in Africa? I’ll have to see how this turns out.
Winick's first Batwing book had a lot of suspense and thrills and I liked it, though I'm not sure about the new direction, new creative team, and new protagonist, apparently. I may not stay longer than Winick's run, but I sense this book is on its way out anyway.
Read part 2 on Thursday. Thanks!