On May 25th, the DC Universe will go through another overhaul when DC Rebirth is released, bringing the New 52 to a close. According to DC, Rebirth is supposed to “rejuvenate” the DC Universe, without clearing out continuity, for the second time in a decade. While we’ve received very few details, one thing we know for sure is that the Clark Kent from the timeline BEFORE the New 52 will be making his return to the mantle of Man of Steel.
We seem to live in a world where the reboot is the norm. I mean, what’s the point of getting invested in something when it’s just going to be relaunched a few years later? Because amazing writing and artwork are eternal. If you want to see some of the best that the New 52 gave us, check out these 10 stories.
Batman: The Court of Owls (Batman 1-7 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo)
Lurking behind the scenes of Gotham from its infancy, the Court of Owls is a secret cabal of Gotham’s elite, ruling the city in shadows even darker than the Bat. When Bruce Wayne’s gentrification project threatens to disrupt their plans, the Court is forced to finally reveal themselves by sending one of their assassins, the Talon, to “restore order.” This arc is the start of an almost year-long war between the Bat-Family and the Court, ending with a startling revelation that changes what we have always known to be true about the Wayne family.
Court of Owls was a great story (honestly my personal favorite in the New 52) because it set the tone for Snyder and Capullo’s entire run of the series. Snyder created a book that was a crime thriller, but still read like an action-adventure story. The balancing act was perfect. Capullo’s art is so stylized that he gave Batman a defining look in the New 52. I would go so far as to put it up there with Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man.
Favorite Moment: All of issue six, when Batman was captured by the Court. Having the pages drawn from different directions allowed the reader to feel like they were descending into madness with Batman. When Batman was finally able to break free, the paneling returned to normal. Just masterful visual storytelling.
Wonder Woman: Blood (Wonder Woman 1-6 by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang)
Wonder Woman is tasked with protecting Zola, a human pregnant with Zeus’ child who is being hunted by Zeus’ jealous wife, Hera. While Hera is otherwise occupied, the sun god Apollo makes a play for the throne of Zeus, who has inexplicably disappeared.
Azzarello and Chiang created a story that brings out the best in Wonder Woman. The balance of her desire to protect people with her Amazonian warrior instincts gives us a Diana we can all be proud of and aspire to be. What makes this story a must read is the startling revelation of Wonder Woman’s true birthright and the way Azzarello and Chiang deftly handle the resulting emotional complications.
The reason I love this scene is that is encapsulates everything about Wonder Woman in the subtlest of ways. She and Zola are awaiting the arrival of the sea god Poseidon. Diana is about to meet one of the most powerful beings in the universe, and she concentrates more at putting her friend at ease. This shows both her bravery as well as her desire to put others first. Azzarello and Chiang give us a deeper understanding of what makes this superhero so wonderful, and it isn’t just that she kicks ass.
The Flash: Move Forward (The Flash 1-7 by Francis Manapul and Brian Beccellato
Even though Barry Allen made his return to the DC Universe in 2008’s Final Crisis, Move Forward is the book that returned him to the DC norm (I missed Wally too, everyone). When a new threat, Mob Rule, starts causing havoc in Central City, Barry must do his best to stop them while coming to grips with the shocking revelation of who and what Mob Rule is.
From a new relationship with Patty Spivot to the emotional range shown by Captain Cold, this story shows the same optimism and sincerity that has translated so successfully to the TV show.
Aquaman: The Trench (Aquaman 1-6 by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, and Joe Prado)
Even when Aquaman had the long hair and hook hand, he was still considered “the dude who could talk to fish.” Other than a one-off comment here or there, it was never really addressed in the comics. The Trench was the first Aquaman story to make the world’s perception of him a major plot point. He is even asked point blank “How does it feel to be nobody’s favorite super-hero?” When a new threat from the depths of the ocean threatens Amnesty Bay, Aquaman must put that self-doubt aside to protect the people who view him as a joke. By the end of the story, Aquaman has begun to prove to himself and the rest of the world, that he is indeed worthy of the title superhero.
Forever Evil (Forever Evil 1-7 by Geoff Johns, David Finch, and Richard Friend)
If you’ve read some of my articles before, you know that I don’t see Lex Luthor as inherently evil. He is just the most narcissistic man who has ever lived. He claims his actions are only for the benefit of mankind, yet truly only cares for himself. You have to give him credit, though. He’s more loyal to himself than more sports fans are to their hometown team.
Forever Evil brings this side of Lex to the forefront. When the Crime Syndicate invades Earth and dismantles the Justice League from both the inside and outside, Lex Luthor is the only man left on the planet who has a chance of saving it. In this instance, Luthor becomes a hero. NOT because it’s what’s best for the planet, or for mankind, but because it’s what is best for LEX LUTHOR. If the Syndicate’s invasion would in any way benefit Superman’s greatest foe, rest assured he would have been the first in line to team up with them. He is no way trying to turn over a new leaf, but doing what is necessary to make sure he survives with the maximum amount of benefits. It’s a perfect villain story.
Batman: Zero Year (Batman 21-27, 29-33 by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia
When you think of Batman’s origin story, it’s inevitably the Wayne family leaving the theater and Martha’s (Martha WAYNE’s) pearls falling to the ground. Before this story, I wouldn’t have imagined Gotham City looking like a jungle wasteland and a short-sleeved Dark Knight riding a motorcycle.
That’s only the beginning for Zero Year. This New 52 retelling of Batman’s debut in Gotham City took facets of the original stories and gave them a modern twist, including a new take on the creation of Batman’s costume and showcasing an even scarier Riddler.
This year-long arc proves that great writing and art can rejuvenate and energize a story we feel we might have seen time and time again. Best of all, the New 52 used tie-ins to show how heroes like Barry Allen and Clark Kent were affected by what was happening in Gotham.
Favorite Moment: Bat Max: Gotham Road
Suicide Squad: Kicked in the Teeth (Suicide Squad 1-7 by Adam Glass, Federico Dallocchio, and Clayton Henry)
This version of Task Force X on paper is the same as those that have come before: super-villains that are sent by the government to run suicide missions to earn a reduced sentence. Fall out of line, and the tiny bomb placed in your neck explodes. This incarnation of the Squad includes Deadshot, Harley Quinn, King Shark, El Diablo, and Black Spider, among others. What makes this story great is how it makes you question long-held beliefs of what is good and evil. These characters have specific motivations for what they do, and in some instances, you can even sympathize with them. On top of that, the banter between the team members is fantastic. If the writing in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie is as strong as Kicked in the Teeth, the DCEU will have some hope after all. Ironic that it should come from a group of villains.
Favorite moment: I won’t put the panel here as to not ruin the moment, but let’s just say a dead team member isn’t as dead as we thought.
Batgirl: Batgirl of Burnside (Batgirl 35-50 by Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr, and Maris Wicks)
When comparing DC and Marvel (which the internet LOVES to do, especially in 2016), DC has always been viewed as specializing in god-type heroes, while Marvel heroes are more human and flawed. Batgirl of Burnside shatters this distinction, adding a much needed human element to the DC Universe.
After losing all of her Batgirl equipment in a fire, 21-year-old Barbara Gordon must start from scratch when it comes to being a superhero. From designing a cool new costume to a whole new supporting cast, this first arc of the new Batgirl is a great access point for all readers. This is really the first time any of the “Bat-Family” has been shown dealing with normal problems, and not just those of a superhero variety. It’s as if they took everything that made Peter Parker who he was over at Marvel (the “Parker luck” as they call it) and very successfully applied that formula to Barbara. From having her computer with her thesis stolen to needing a tech student to 3D print her a new cowl, Barbara was forced to balance “normal” issues with her “Bat” issues. After the trauma we’ve seen Barbara endure in years past, to see her handle things WE would have to deal with is a breath of fresh air.
Favorite moment: When Barbara’s roommate Frankie learns her identity and wants to become part of the team. They tease what her name will be, much like Cap teased “Avengers ASSEMBLE” at the end of Age of Ultron.
Green Arrow: The Kill Machine (Green Arrow 17-24 by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, and Marcelo Maiolo)
Jeff Lemire took over the writing reigns of Green Arrow to great success with his debut story arc The Kill Machine. After his company is taken over and destroyed by the assassin Komodo, Oliver Queen becomes a man on the run with barely any weapons and a delivery guy as his only means of support. What follows is a whirlwind adventure into the truth about the death of Oliver’s father, and Oliver’s own legacy as Green Arrow. This arc also introduced us to the new Count Vertigo and brought elements of the TV show into the comic, most notably Shado and John Diggle. The art by Andrea Sorrentino reminds me very much of Alex Maleev’s run on Daredevil, with a realistic style that matches Lemire’s writing perfectly.
Justice League: Origin (Justice League 1-6 by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee)
This was the first book released under the New 52 banner. When the threat of Darkseid looms over the planet, the team of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Cyborg must join forces to stop him. When I think of the Justice League, I think of epic, and nothing is more epic than the seven greatest heroes of the DC Universe teaming up to fight arguably its most powerful villain. Lee’s art is amazing, capturing the god-like stature of both the League and Darkseid. Johns was able to quickly establish each hero’s character, as well as each one’s dynamic amongst the team. No one felt like they were just “there.” They all had an important part.
This story also marked Cyborg’s introduction into the upper echelon of DC heroes. A member of the Teen Titans for almost his whole career, his becoming part of the League was well deserved.
DC Rebirth is just days away. New stories and new paths for our heroes will be set, as the New 52 rides off into the sunset. That doesn’t mean should be forgotten. These are 10 stories that you can still enjoy again and again. But what about you? What is YOUR favorite New 52 story? Was it one from this list? What stories should we have added? Let me know on Twitter or sound off in the comments below.
IMAGES: DC ENTERTAINMENT