As a kid I was a Marvel man. I always found the characters more relatable, I was the wisecracking geeky boy who was one radioactive insect bite away from being the coolest superhero on the planet. As an adult though, I'm something of a fence sitter when it comes to the big two. I just try and read what's good and lately that has been very little when it comes to superheroes. I was intrigued by the notion of DC's New 52, if only because I truly enjoy Marvel's Ultimate Universe. In my mind Ultimate Spider-man became the best Spidey title, far better than Amazing. It was clean, fresh and not weighed down by continuity - and HO-LY do I hate weighty continuity. I was really hoping DC's reboot did the same for their line up - unfortunately it's turned out to be something of a soft reboot, the old programs are still running in the background. If it's a reboot why is Batman already on his third Robin? It's like that time I couldn't stop Skype from opening on start-up.
I think in total I read about ten of the new 52 issue 1's (just those that I thought had potential), of those I'm still reading five titles now and that will soon be cut down to three. I've waited a few months, given the titles a chance to grip me enough. Now, I present the top three titles I think are the Good Stuff of the New 52:
3. Wonder Woman
Ok, this is surprising for me to write, but I am genuinely enjoying Wonder Woman. Now, I don't want to sound like some misogynistic twat but I generally find female superheroes pretty rubbish. No doubt someone has already labelled me as a misogynistic twat and they're commenting about how female superheroes give female comic readers strong role models etc. etc. but honestly, are most male superheroes good role models? No. They're mental. Plus, I don't think females are portrayed in superhero comics in anything remotely close to a positive way. But I digress and because you can't dig yourself out of a hole with a shovel let's just move on.
Brian Azzarello got my attention in a big way with 'Joker' so I've been following his work since I read that book a while ago now. At first I thought he was the wrong choice to write Wonder Woman simply because I wasn't sure what he was going to do with the character. However, I have to say that I like where he is taking the title. It's a book that is soaked in mythology and folklore, almost Hellboy-esque but with a little more boob. It's a great direction to take the book in, away from a typical superhero fling and into exploring myth and legend.
Cliff Chiang's art is simple yet bold. There are moments where I don't think the colouring does the pencils justice but all in all the art is good. Also, I have to say that Chiang's Wonder Woman is awesome. She is a massive unit. A beautiful woman that you'd be far too scared to talk to because she could snap your neck with her pinky, just like a seven foot tall Amazonian weapon should be.
Other than Spider-man only one other character has been a consistent read throughout my comics history and that's the Batman. I'm a huge Batman fan but have moved away from reading single issues in recent years, finding that I enjoy Batman stories far more as trades and graphic novels. That said, I decided to give both Detective Comics and Batman a go with the launch of the new 52 and have to say that Batman is the better book.
Scott Snyder writes Batman well, which I know has already been established during his run on Detective Comics, but this is my first taste of his work. Jeph Loeb's writing of Batman is my favourite, and it seems Snyder is going down the same detective mystery route which is definitely a good thing. He isn't better than Loeb yet but we shall see how it pans out over the next few issues. He certainly brings a lot of character to Batman and even some humour which nicely offsets the grim Gotham story he is penning.
As for the art, I'm enjoying Greg Capullo although at first I found his art varying between some awesome dark Batman and some Batman that's a little cartoonish. Both are tight but the mix seemed a little off, but he seems to have got into the flow now. I think Capullo is doing a better job than Tony S. Daniel's work on Detective.
As I alluded to earlier, Batman is a seriously prime example of why this new 52 is a soft reboot, it doesn't feel like anything has changed. I'm not actually saying that's a bad thing, this is good old fashioned Batman. I'm just saying don't try and give me your freshly washed underwear and tell me it's new, no matter how nice your fabric softener is.
2. Action Comics
Ok, so when I said top three, its really a top four but I'm a sneaky little devil and so have included a tie for second so shut up I wasn't lying. There is little to say about Action Comics other than no-one in recent memory writes Superman as well as Grant Morrison. With All Star Superman he single handedly proved to me that Superman wasn't an oversized pretentious boy scout, that he was a character about which good stories could be written. He continues that in Action Comics. He cuts to the heart of what Superman is about, and getting there by showing us who Superman is through having the world hate him instead of love him is a stroke of masterful storytelling. There is also something more grounded in this Superman than the Superman of recent years, maybe it's because he is attempting to take down corporate bad guys rather than giant aliens, but I see it as a very good thing.
Action Comics actually leans towards an almost genuine reboot much more than Batman does. The world of Superman in Metropolis that Morrison is penning feels new. It feels like he is still an outsider, like he doesn't belong. It isn't straight away comfortable - he doesn't feel at home like Batman does in Gotham. Rags Morales' art certainly aids this feeling of genuine rebootedness, he has a fresh take on Superman making him seem young but still brimming with the god-like power he has, able to leap tall buildings and all that. Maybe it's the jeans and t-shirt but he looks kind of cool…
Action Comics does live up to it's name, it's a good, fast paced superhero book with a touch of character as only Grant Morrison can deliver.
1. Animal Man
I had never read any Animal Man before - not the Grant Morrison run or the Vertigo days - so didn't quite know what to expect from this character. I knew the general premise, it's a guy that takes the powers of animals right? So, like, he meows like a nearby cat or something…little did I know as I first began this book that it would turn out to be what I consider the best book of the new 52. Jeff Lemire has penned a story that instantly let's you know who this character is, stuntman, actor, environmentalist, superhero, all of the above. I haven't read much of Lemire's work to be honest but he certainly has the chops. It feels as though he draws on Grant Morrison and even Alan Moore pedigree in his superhero work. Grounding the character early with his mock interview but slowly building the sense of the unreal.
What I really like about Animal Man is the growing sense of dread and almost horror themes that are totally at odds to the shiny world of the superhero. Animal Man takes the glamourous superhero and says, "let's see what happens when we start chucking your freaky little kid killing animals at you." Travel Foreman's art hits the right notes here too. His work during the ordinary world scenes looks almost plain but then once he gets some weird to play with his pencils really come alive.
It could be the fact that I haven't read Animal Man in the past and that makes all this a little new and exciting, but Lemire and Foreman's Animal Man is my pick for the best of the new 52.