Review: DC Entertainment Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology 2015 trade paperback (DC Comics

Monday, February 02, 2015

This will be my third review of the DC Entertainment Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology booklet (2015), following my reviews of the 2013 and 2014 editions.

As I’ve said both times before, I think DC releasing these catalogs is great. Very often trades and graphic novels seem like an afterthought — Dan DiDio, perhaps rightly, focusing on getting readers into the comics shop every week, not every week or so for a trade — even though I suspect there’s more marketing push behind trades than it’s popular to say. These Essentials books are some confirmation of that; it’s a day in the sun for DC’s collections program, so to speak.

If you haven’t picked up the book in your local comics shop, it’s pretty much everywhere online: Amazon, Comixology, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and etc.

Also as I’ve said before, in “reviewing” these Essential books, I think it would be much too easy, and maybe a tad simplistic, to argue that League of Extraordinary Gentlemen should have remained on the 25 Essential Graphic Novels list and not been replaced by, say, Planetary or something. Everybody’s going to have a different opinion, so opining that they should have included this or that isn’t much of a headline (though I’ll undoubtedly still do a little bit of that anyway).

But, given that DC published this booklet, and someone or someones within the company checked off on it and said, “Yes, this is the best current representation of our values and ideas as conveyed through the books we emphasize,” I do think some study of the book is warranted, if not “what books did DC pick” than “what is DC saying about itself with the books it picked.”

Opening Pages

Starting from the cover, I’ll note that this year, the book is called “DC Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology 2015,” which returns to the 2013 naming; in 2014, DC changed it to “Graphic Novel Essentials and Chronology,” but maybe “Essential Graphic Novels” scanned better.

Also note that the 2013 edition came out around May, and then the 2014 edition didn’t come out until the following June, about twelve months. This volume is out in January, so about six months later, suggesting a quicker turnaround perhaps to keep the book more current.

At a glance, the introductory letter from Dan DiDio and Jim Lee looks significantly changed from last year, which was pretty much verbatim from the year before. As should not be surprising given recent developments, DC’s television and other multimedia projects are front-and-center at the beginning of the letter, and there’s a pretty consistent emphasis on these throughout the book. Arrow, Flash, and Injustice get name-checked right off the bat (along with Man of Steel, which DC would like to suggest was a “smash,” but I’m not so sure it was, having not entered the cultural zeitgeist like the “Dark Knight Trilogy” or Avengers — but maybe I think that just because I didn’t like the movie). Constantine and Gotham are not mentioned (but are elsewhere), though who knows when this letter was written vis a vis what shows had been picked up yet.

Last year’s letter mentioned books “from … Watchmen to … Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls,” which is a pretty fair gamut for where DC is/was at the time, but also skips a good chunk of work. This year, the letter name-drops Watchmen, Batman: Dark Knight Returns, Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Blood, and Fabian Moon and Gabriel Ba’s Daytripper. Among themes in the rest of the book that I think this reflects are, 1) a greater emphasis on the “classics,” whereas the 2014 book was maybe too given over to New 52 material; and 2) increasing roles for Wonder Woman and others of DC’s female properties, improving on the 2014 edition (which improved upon the 2013 edition).

Also this is one of a number of prominent mentions of Daytripper by the Brazilian brothers Moon and Ba, a book that passed me by completely when it was released a couple years ago, but has apparently recently been selected as required freshman reading at University of Tennessee. With its international authors, maybe this too is supposed to speak to DC’s “diversity.”

Regarding the table of contents, this year follows the 25 Essentials List with “Modern Classics,” which is a change from the New 52 section having been second last time. In fact, New 52 is shunted to the back of the named DC proper sections this time, and combined with some increased emphasis on out-of-continuity “event” titles like Zero Hour and Final Crisis suggests perhaps an awareness of Convergence here — the de-emphasis of the New 52 in favor of DC’s publishing history as a whole (as viewed through their trades), perhaps suggesting that the aftereffects of Convergence will be greater than we’ve been lead to believe.

Maybe one of the biggest changes between the 2014 and 2015 books is that the "Wonder Woman" section has been moved now to right after the "Batman" and "Superman" sections, not placed at the end as it was before (which was itself an improvement over Wonder Woman’s absence in 2013). I’ll still quibble with their book choices, but we’re moving in the right direction. Poor Green Lantern now gets the almost-tail-end spot, after the "Justice League," "Flash," and "Green Arrow" sections (demonstrating how Green Lantern’s fortunes have changed since Geoff Johns departed); new this year is a dedicated "Harley Quinn" section, which is astounding and speaks to the sales juggernaut that Harley has become.

We lose the “Digital Firsts” section this time, but gain a surprising "Tales from the Multiverse" spread (more nods toward Convergence) and less surprisingly, a "From Page to Screen" section.

More comings and goings: The “Vertigo Defy” section departs, and "Vertigo Essential Graphic Novels" is joined by "Vertigo Essential Series"; we lose the "Y: The Last Man" section — that series probably going out to pasture now, at least until we see a movie — but gain a "John Constantine, Hellblazer" section.

DCE 25 Essential Graphic Novels

The Essentials section gains a new design this time that seems to emphasis praise for the books over actual page images, for whatever that’s worth. New on the Essential’s list this year are:

Preacher Book One
Superman: Red Son
Green Arrow: Year One
John Constantine, Hellblazer Vol. 1: Original Sins
Flash Vol. 1: Move Forward

Plus Planetary Vol. 1: All Over the World and Other Stories returns to the list after falling off last year.

Coming off the list are:

Saga of the Swamp Thing Vol. 1
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 1
Green Lantern: Rebirth
American Vampire Vol. 1
JLA Vol. 1
Identity Crisis

Which among other things reinforces to me Green Lantern’s downfall versus the rise of a variety of DC’s media properties. This cuts the Alan Moore material in the 25 Essentials list by half, too, though Moore still gets his own section later in the book.

Remaining on the list are:

Batman Vol. 1: Court of Owls
Justice League Vol. 1: Origin
Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Blood
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes
Batman: Year One
V for Vendetta
Fables Vol. 1: Legends in Exile
Batman: The Killing Joke
Y, The Last Man Vol. 1: Unmanned
All-Star Superman
Kingdom Come
Batman: The Long Halloween
Batman: Earth One
Final Crisis
Batman: Hush
Superman: Earth One

Modern Classics

I can’t disagree with the presence of a “Modern Classics” section, though the introductory text sounds a little defensive to me: “Literary, unconventional, and noteworthy … poignant stories demonstrating that comics aren’t just for superheroes, and superheroes aren’t just for children.” Likely this book’s audience already knew that, and those who need to hear it probably aren’t going to be convinced.

And in that view, note that of the thirteen titles included here, only three don’t involve a major DC Comics superhero in some form or another; also seven of them are Batman or Batman-related titles. They are:

Batman: The Black Mirror
Batman, Incorporated Vol. 1: Demon Star
Batman: Night of the Owls
Batman: Noel
DC: The New Frontier
Get Jiro!
Gotham Central Book 1
Identity Crisis
Injustice: Gods Among Us Vol. 1
Punk Rock Jesus
Superman/Batman Vol. 1

Most of these I would generally agree could be considered modern classics, with the exception of maybe Demon Star (at which point I think Grant Morrison’s Batman had already started to peter out; Batman RIP or the like might’ve been a better choice here) and Batman: Night of the Owls, which does not collect Scott Snyder’s full “Owls” story (that I’d grant might be a modern classic), but rather the sometimes one-note “Owls” tie-in stories, which don’t deserve the same accolade.


One new development in the DCE Essentials book overall this year is that for the major characters, their two-page introductory spread includes a roughly chronological “must-read” list (though it’s not referred to as such, but rather mysteriously “just there”). The Batman list is mainly post-Crisis on Infinite Earths material, though the ones for later characters get into pre-Crisis material as well.

More fodder for the Convergence conspiracy theorists, however, is that almost every list includes Flashpoint, and Flashpoint is listed differently (the text is yellow instead of white and has a special lightning bolt icon). In these “side lists,” it would seem DC is trying to specifically point out that here’s where Flashpoint falls in the long continuum of each character’s “life,” perhaps to underscore how the character’s out-of-continuity adventures lead into their in-continuity adventures (“Every story matters,” as it were).

Of these “side lists,” the Batman list is by far the best in my opinion, starting with Batman: Year One, and then into Year One-type stories like Batman: The Man Who Laughs and Batman: The Long Halloween, then 1980s-1990s stories like Killing Joke, Death in the Family, Knightfall, Cataclysm, No Man’s Land, and Hush, then to a good selection of Grant Morrison books, Flashpoint, Zero Year, the Night of the Owls books, and Death of the Family. If I had to pick 24 books from all of Batman’s post-Crisis history, I don’t think I’d do much different.

The individual list of books adds the Batman and Joker: A Celebration of 75 Years books. All the Scott Snyder books are included, including Batman Vol. 6: Graveyard Shift, which isn’t even out yet (the descriptive text her spoils events in Batman, Inc., if that would still be a surprise to anyone.

Added also are Batman Eternal Vol. 1, Batman: Noel again, and Batman: Earth One Vol. 2. Peter Tomasi’s Batman and Robin Vol. 1: Born to Kill comes out of this section, but all the Batman and Robin books get their own neat page later in the book.

Chronology: In all I was satisfied with the Batman chronology, which generally follows the previous side list, and moves some of the Tales of Batman/Legends of the Dark Knight artist editions to the end of the list, where I think it makes more sense for someone to read them in a “chronology.” The DC Trade Paperback Timeline this still is not, putting the new Batman: The New Adventures (with the post-Crisis Jason Todd) before the Dick Grayson-era Long Halloween, etc. Still, no major complaints; note Flashpoint is included in most of the character’s backlist/reading orders.


The “side list” here isn’t as continuity-focused as Batman’s, starting with Birthright and Superman for All Seasons, and then going into Crisis on Infinite Earths and then Man of Steel; I can sort of see the logic, but I’d have put Crisis first if it was going to be on there.

Next are the Death of Superman books, then Superman/Batman Vol. 1, Superman: For Tomorrow, Infinite Crisis, Superman: Secret Origin, and Last Son, which sure as heck skips a lot of Superman books, if not very notable ones. Then we’re in to Flashpoint, the New 52 Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel, the new Batman/Superman book, and All-Star Superman. That’s reading order-ish, but the inclusion of three different crossover books suggests some dearth of viable Superman collections.

In the individual listings, Geoff Johns’s Escape from Bizarro World and Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes have both come off, preserving only Last Son of Krypton from that era before moving into the New 52. Superman: Doomed is included, as is Superman/Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Power Couple, Batman/Superman Vol. 1: Cross World, Superman Unchained, and Superman: Earth One Vol. 3.

Chronology: The general trajectory of the Superman chronology, similar to last time, is 75th Anniversary books, followed by the Superman vs. As a reading order, the list still somewhat misses its mark, putting the Superman: Man of Steel books after Power Within and Dark Knight Over Metropolis, for instance. There is a good representation of authors here, including Kurt Busiek, James Robinson, and J. Michael Straczynski, among others.

Wonder Woman

It is better that Wonder Woman has a section than that she doesn’t. It is better that her section is listed third than ninth. That being said, there are just six Wonder Woman volumes on the side list (half or less than both the Batman and Superman books listed) and of those, one is Flashpoint, one is Infinite Crisis, and one is Superman/Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Power Couple again. The others are Wonder Woman Chronicles Vol. 1, the Wonder Woman by George Perez Omnibus, and Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Blood.

In the individual listings, the main changes are that J. Michael Straczynski’s Wonder Woman: Odyssey Vols. 1 and 2 come off, and Azzarello’s final Wonder Woman Vols. 5-6 join the list (plus Superman/Wonder Woman again, a title I liked but enough already).

The difficulty here is that for an outsider looking at this list, you’d think Wonder Woman came out fully formed at the start of the New 52, except for that one book by that Perez guy there at the start. And it’s not as though DC lacks viable Wonder Woman collections to point to, perhaps more so than Superman. I have to assume Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman: Hiketeia is still in print, letting alone his actual collections, and probably some of Gail Simone’s work, too — and those are big names with a body of work outside DC that people would recognize. And that’s not even mentioning collections by Phil Jimenez and John Byrne, among others.

Point being, this Wonder Woman section gets better every year, and that’s great. But it is not where it needs to be yet.

Chronology: Unfortunately, the Wonder Woman chronology section offers no assistance, still skipping most of the post-Crisis Wonder Woman material, though including the first print edition of the new Sensation Comics digital series.

Justice League

The Justice League side listings are an interesting mishmash, including Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Death of Superman, Zero Hour, JLA books, Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, 52, Sinestro Corps War, Batman RIP (a head-scratcher, except for —), Final Crisis, Blackest Night, Flashpoint, Justice League Vol. 1: Origin, Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis (though, maybe a nod to the movie, it just says “Throne of Atlantis”), Forever Evil, and New 52: Futures End Vol. 1.

So, in essence, the Justice League section names every major in-print DC event from Crisis, including very notably Zero Hour, about to be featured in, yup, Convergence. There’s also a bit of revisionist history here in that two of Justice League’s biggest New 52 missteps — Vol. 2: Villains Journey and Trinity War — are quietly left out of the mix.

Added to the individual listings, too, are Crisis, Zero Hour, the 52 Omnibus, Blackest Night, and Flashpoint. We see clear signs here of DC running toward, not away from, its complicated past.

Chronology: Frankly the Justice League backlist is the kind of thing I’d like to see for the Wonder Woman and other sections. Plenty of Silver Age stuff, Crisis on Infinite Earths, Keith Giffen’s Justice League International, JLA, material from Brad Meltzer, Dwayne McDuffie, and James Robinson, into the New 52 including Justice League Dark, International, and Unlimited, plus Injustice. A really good cross-section of all the Justice League eras.


The description includes the sentence, “Young Barry Allen’s life stopped the minute his mother was murdered and the mystery drove him to become a forensic scientist,” which seems like an awfully Flash TV-ish note, except I see it was there last year, too. I guess Barry’s mother’s death is pretty well canon now, though I wonder how many new fans realize what a new development it is.

The side list has Flash Chronicles, Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Flash by Geoff Johns Omnibus, and then Flash: Rebirth, Dastardly Death of the Rogues, and Road to Flashpoint, the latter three being books that previous Essential books pretty much avoided. Then it lists Flashpoint and Flash Vol. 1: Move Forward.

The individual listings add the Flash: Celebration of 75 Years book, plus again the pre-Flashpoint Geoff Johns books, and then the New 52 books through Van Jensen, Robert Venditti, and Brett Booth’s not yet released Vol. 6.

Chronology: Again, this a more complete Flash list than we’ve seen before, but even as someone who’s come to embrace Barry Allen, it’s maddening that there’s no Mark Waid Flash material listed or possibly currently in print. I get why DC wants to emphasize Barry Allen, but the Flash by Geoff Johns Omnibuses listed here stood on the shoulders of the foundation Waid built, and I think we’re overdue for a collection to acknowledge that.

Green Arrow

This description includes a mention that Green Arrow fights “against the worst criminals Starling City has to offer.” I’d like to think the person who wrote that realized the mistake but wanted to draw in TV show fans, rather than not realizing the mistake at all.

The side listings are Green Arrow: Year One, Green Arrow/Green Lantern, Longbow Hunters, Archer’s Quest, Brightest Day, Flashpoint, and then Green Arrow Vol. 4: The Kill Machine. If I had to read something, I prefer Kevin Smith’s Quiver over Brad Meltzer’s Archer’s Quest, but I guess the latter has elements more familiar to Arrow fans. Brightest Day’s a bit of a head-scratcher since the story specifically didn’t focus on Green Arrow in favor of the tie-ins in his own book. To no one’s surprise the first three New 52 Green Arrow books get skipped over; it’s rather a wonder DC didn’t, or hasn’t yet, started renumbering the Green Arrow volumes a la Batgirl.

The individual listings include Jeff Lemire’s Green Arrow Vols. 5-6 as well, plus the first Arrow print collection of the digital stories.

Chronology: The Green Arrow reading list nicely lists the three “new” Mike Grell books, as well as Kevin Smith and Brad Meltzer’s work, to JT Krul and then the New 52 books by Ann Nocenti and Jeff Lemire. The glaring omission, however, is something from Judd Winick’s really quite extraordinary run.

Green Lantern

Again, poor Green Lantern, bringing up the rear here. The side list starts with Green Lantern: Secret Origin — fair enough — and then Death of Superman, which is a real head-scratcher because Guy Gardner’s only in it for an issue (and had a yellow ring) and I don’t even know that Hal even appears … unless what they meant here was Return of Superman, in which Hal figures prominently. That would explain Zero Hour being listed next, though if they’re going to go “there,” I’d think Emerald Twilight maybe deserved a place. Anyway, following is the pre-Flashpoint “best of” — Rebirth, Sinestro Corps War, Blackest Night, Brightest Day, and then Flashpoint and Johns’s three New 52 Green Lantern books, plus Venditti’s Lights Out.

The individual listings as well lose most of Johns’s pre-Flashpoint Green Lantern titles (at least seven out of this section since 2014), but include the New 52 Green Lantern books through the not-yet-published Vol. 6: The Life Equation.

Chronology: The Green Lantern backlist section does a nice job including the Sector 2814 books, Tales of the Green Lantern Corps, the complete Geoff Johns-era Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps volumes, plus the New 52 New Guardians, Red Lanterns, and Sinestro (though no Larfleeze, unless I’m overlooking it). A good fleshing out of the spotlight section.

Harley Quinn

No side listings for Harley. Maybe it’s just that parody comics aren’t my cuppa, but it comes to mind that Harley Quinn isn’t the female superhero we want, just the one we’ve got; I guess that’s better than nothing.

The individual listngs include the four Karl Kesel/AJ Lieberman books, and then the two New 52 Jimmy Palmiotti/Amanda Conner volumes. I’m satisfied with this list, and like that Harley’s own collections are included rather than Batman: Harley Quinn or Mad Love or the like.

Teen Titans

Oh, the Teen Titans page uses that troublesome Kenneth Rocafort cover, and they way it’s cropped just emphasizes further the ridiculously buxom, supermodel-posed Wonder Girl front and center. You might have thought an editor would have seen this page and had a double-thought about it.

Side listings are Teen Titans: Year One, New Teen Titans Vol. 1 (the new paperback Marv Wolfman/George Perez collection), New Teen Titans: Games, Teen Titans Vol. 1: A Kid’s Game, Flashpoint, the New 52 Teen Titans Vol. 1: It’s Our Right to Fight, and the new-new Teen Titans Vol. 1 (with the icon of another mini buxom Wonder Girl). I can’t disagree all the major eras are name-checked here, though that’s a lot of volume ones to confuse a new reader.

For some reason the individual listings lose the Teen Titans by Geoff Johns Omnibus in favor of A Kid’s Game, which seems like the wrong direction to me. The initial New 52 volumes 1-5 are listed here, plus the new-new Teen Titans volume and then also Jeff Lemire’s (very good) Teen Titans: Earth One.

Chronology: No glaring omissions in this mostly functional Titans list — the Wolfman/Perez material, Kid’s Game again and the Teen Titans by Geoff Johns Omnibus, all the original New 52 volumes and then the new-new one plus Teen Titans Go and Earth One.

The New 52

It’s really quite extraordinary to see the New 52 section all the way in the back here. The description has knockout text which emphasizes the following, which was there last year but not as prominently — “This is the biggest event in comic book history. Start at the beginning.” — which feels like a rather daunting command rather than a call to action.

The side listed books include Zero Year (not Batman: Zero Year, just Zero Year, Justice League Vol. 1: Origin, Death of the Family, Throne of Atlantis, "Batman: Requiem" (which, y'know, isn’t even a DC collection, just a storyline; the picture is for Batman Inc. Vol 2: Gotham’s Most Wanted), Green Lantern: Wrath of the First Lantern, Trinity War, Green Lantern: Lights Out, Forever Evil, Superman: Doomed, and New 52: Futures End. All of these seem fair enough representations of the New 52 so far, though given that many of the characters listed here have their own pages, I might’ve considered like an Animal Man: Rotworld, a Justice League Dark, or even a Red Hood and the Outlaws, something that definitively says “New 52” without repeating itself.

In the individual listings, there’s too much here to go through line by line, but cancelled series Animal Man, All-Star Western, Batwing, Birds of Prey, Stormwatch, and Superboy are all off this list, though many are included in the backlist at the end. Earth 2 isn’t included here, but appears in the "Tales of the Multiverse" section. Only the first Gail Simone Batgirl book is listed, before the new Batgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside; ditto the first Tony Daniel Detective Comics collection, and then Vol. 6: Icarus by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato.

Among additions are Arkham Manor, Gotham Academy, Gotham by Midnight, Justice League United, Klarion, Lobo, the New 52: Futures End Vols. 1-2, the New 52 Shazam one-off collection, Sinestro, Trinity of Sin, and the new-new Deathstroke and Suicide Squad volumes.

The six volumes of Peter Tomasi’s Batman and Robin get their own neatly-organized page, which is a nice boon for the series. There’s also a clever page that draws a path between the five Nightwing volumes and the first Grayson volume, keeping with our continuity theme.

Tales from the Multiverse

This is a two page spread of the Multiverse map that DC released in conjunction with Multiversity, but with collections of trades pointed to some of the Earths. To what extent this matches Grant Morrison’s Multiversity, I’m not sure (having not yet read it), but the map posits the Earth One books as all taking place in the same universe (which I don’t think they’re supposed to) on the map’s Earth 1; the Earth 2 books on Earth 2 (also listed is Earth 2: World’s End Vol. 1), Kingdom Come and Justice Society: Thy Kingdom Come on Earth 22, Superman: Red Son on Earth 30, Batman Beyond 2.0: Rewired on Earth 12, DC: New Frontier on Earth 21, Batman: Gotham by Gaslight on Earth 18, and Tales of the Multiverse: Batman – Vampire on Earth 43. Plus, hanging out at the top is Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, and Flashpoint.

The Multiverse, it would seem, is big this year. Might splitting up DC’s trades into different Earths be a sign of things to come?

From Page to Screen

This is massive eight-page section, and it quickly becomes clear here that DC wants to mine their multimedia properties as broadly as possible, not just in terms of current TV shows. The first pair listed is Batman: Knightfall and the Batman: The Dark Knight Rises movie, which, yeah, Bane’s in both, but it’s something of a stretch to put that and that right next to each other — and demonstrates the extent to which DC really wants to, even needs to, present themselves as a multimedia company with a deep backlist of connected products.

V for Vendetta and the movie are here, though not Watchmen. Gotham Central Book One and Gotham, of course, and Flash Vol. 1: Move Forward with Flash; and Green Arrow: Year One, Green Arrow Vol. 4: Kill Machine, and the Arrow print/digital collection alongside the Arrow Season One and Season Two DVDs. Also iZombie Vol. 1: Dead to the World and John Constantine, Hellblazer Vol. 1: Original Sins with their respective shows, and Smallville Season 11 Vol. 1: Guardian (listed as Vol. 11) with the Smallville: Complete Series DVD set, and a Batman ‘66 collection with the Batman '66: Complete Series DVDs.

DC’s animated movies get a nod, including Batman: Under the Red Hood, Justice League Vol. 1: Origin (with Justice League: War) and Flashpoint. Batman Beyond 2.0: Rewired goes with the Batman Beyond: Complete Series DVDs. Batman: Arkham Origins is listed with the PS3 edition of Batman: Arkham City, and then the Xbox 360 Injustice: Gods Among Us gets its own page with the two Injustice and two Injustice: Year Two print collections.

Vertigo Essential Series/Vertigo Essential Graphic Novels

The net gain/loss between what was "Vertigo Essential Graphic Novels" and "Vertigo DEFY," and is now "Essential Graphic Novels" and "Essential Series," is basically a draw. The Hellblazer book exits, but is represented plenty of other places. Losers, 100 Bullets: Brother Lono, Hinterkind, and Dead Boy Detectives all step out. Added is Get Jiro! (resurgent, for some reason), Royals: Masters of War, Trillium, and Scott Snyder’s The Wake. Also appearing between these lists is American Vampire Vol. 1 and Y: The Last Man Vol. 1.

Neil Gaiman

In addition to all the existing Sandman books, this section gains Sandman: Overture and Black Orchid, but loses Lucifer. Also added are Books of Magic, Midnight Days, Stardust, and Mr. Punch.


This section is presented much more compactly than before, but with no changes other than to list Fables through Vol. 22.

John Constantine, Hellblazer

Constantine gets his own section and he’d probably say that’s well deserved. The listings include Vols. 1-11 of the Vertigo series; the New 52 Constantine series is nowhere to be found except in the final backlist. Also included is the controversial Hellblazer: Shoot by Warren Ellis.

Alan Moore

Even as DC likely still cleans up on Watchmen, it astounds me that they have an entire section of their catalog devoted to an author who’s openly derisive and hostile toward them, to the point the reader suspects the author wishes he’d never worked with them in the first place. Maybe a section praising Moore is taking the high road, but it begins to feel a bit tone deaf. The only change here is to add Top 10 (the Before Watchmen books are mentioned solely in the final backlist.)

Grant Morrison

I guess it’s alphabetical, but I’d sooner list the author writing a major miniseries for your company before the one who’s outspoken about how much he doesn’t like you, but that’s just me. Added to Morrison’s section is Filth: The Deluxe Edition.


The MAD section loses its classic archives in favor of just the Adjective MADs and Spy vs. Spy.

DC All-Ages

The Tiny Titans material, sadly, is reduced to just Welcome to the Treehouse and Return to the Treehouse. Included are Batman: Li'l Gotham, Scooby-Doo Team-Up, and Teen Titans Go books. Also sadly, we lose both Batman: Brave and the Bold and Superman Family Adventures from this list.

DC Comics Reading Orders and Selected Backlist

These are books with a backlist but not their own Essentials section.

Justice Society of America
Newly includes the 75 Years collection and also the much-anticipated America Vs. the Justice Society. JSA still isn’t listed individually in favor of Justice Society of America, but the JSA Omnibuses are now listed (though, these are in the wrong order). We also see the Bill Willingham and Marc Guggenheim books (though not the Matthew Sturges/Freddie Williams Justice Society All-Stars books). Also included are the New 52 Mr. Terrific and Earth 2 books, including World’s End.

Legion of Super-Heroes
The classic Paul Levitz material like Great Darkness Saga is listed, as well as Levitz’s New 52 work; also books like Geoff Johns’s Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds and Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes, which came out of the Superman section. It’s troubling that the recent not-so-hot Jim Shooter collections are included, but the very good Mark Waid/Barry Kitson books that were part of that same era are excluded (see also the lack of a good Mark Waid Flash collection).

Selected Backlist
A new formatting squeezes a lot more books in there. There’s a lot to look at, but suffice it to say many of the books that aren’t in the New 52 section are listed here, including All-Star Western (and some Jonah Hex-titled books), Animal Man, Batwing, Birds of Prey (including Gail Simone’s Death of Oracle), Black Canary/Zatanna: Bloodspell, Booster Gold, Camelot 3000, the New 52 Constaintine books, Deathstroke: Assassins by Wolfman (can’t wait), both Dial H books plus the deluxe edition (I noticed multiple formats of the same books a lot here, a change from previous years), Katana, Secret Six, Starman, the John Ostrander Spectre, Stormwatch (with Authority listed after it, out of alphabetical order but understandable), and Superboy. The Before Watchmen books are here, and even really esoteric ones like Threshold: The Hunted and Voodoo. Charles Soule’s last Swamp Thing, Vol. 6: The Sureen, caught my eye.

For another year, no Sandman Mystery Theatre.

Still with me? Fantastic. That’s my take on the DC Entertainment Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology 2015. Let me reiterate that I think this year’s book is an improvement over last year, which was an improvement over the year before, so I think we’re moving in the right direction. Given that this came out in January, I’m curious to see if we might get another volume in the summertime, or if DC will truly wait until 2016 for the next one.
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  1. Really enjoyed your insight on the Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology. I would agree with you on there being a larger marketing push toward trades versus what they want us to believe. Can't wait to get this year's booklet!

  2. "I’m satisfied with this list, and like that Harley’s own collections are included rather than Batman: Harley Quinn or Mad Love or the like."

    Wait, why? Mad Love is great, and still probably the best Harley story ever printed.

    1. Fair enough. Mad Love isn't the touchstone for me that it is for some people, but I certainly recognize it's worth. I'm just saying that for all the Harley books in the Harley section to start with "Harley" rather than starting with "Batman" (escalating Harley to her own character rather than a derivative of another character) seems to me a good thing.