For the past five years, DC’s brand initiative has been known as “the New 52,” a comprehensive reboot, retooling, and reimagining of its heroes and villains. With the recent release of Rebirth, the New 52 is effectively at an end, and the DC Universe is open once more to its rich history of legacy and optimism.
To commemorate this event, we at Batman News have banded together and submitted our personal favorite series, characters, and issues of the past five years, chronicling what we think is the Best of the New 52.
Best Batman Story/Book: Zero Year
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo did an amazing job in this comic book! I always love a good comic book that shows Bruce Wayne before he actually calls himself ‘Batman’ and taking on the role of becoming The Dark Knight. Honestly, really close to choosing Court of the Owls, but I think this book beat it. (Don’t shoot me.) I know some people didn’t like it, because it strays away from the characters that we’ve come to know, but I think that’s what makes it special about it. You see Bruce fail multiple times trying to save Gotham from its evil.
Best Non-Batman Story/Book: The Flash
Not only is Barry Allen one of my favorite characters, but Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato do a great job on having some memorable quotes. My all-time favorite that helped me in one of my dark times, “Life is locomotion… if you’re not moving, you’re not living. But there comes a time when you’ve got to stop running away from things… and you’ve got to start running towards something, you’ve go to forge ahead. Keep moving. Even if your path isn’t lit… trust that you’ll find your way.”
Favorite New 52 Artist: Jim Lee in New 52 Justice League
(Mostly, because I’m obsessed with Jim Lee’s artwork.)
Favorite single Bat-Book issue from the New52: Batman & Robin #18
This is the issue where Bruce Wayne mourns the passing of his son, Damian. Since this issue uses no dialogue to convey Bruce’s suffering, I’ll use that as my cue to let it speak for itself.
Best Creative Team: Tom King, Tim Seeley, and Mikel Janin, Grayson
Even though Dick wasn’t Nightwing anymore, this team managed to capture his essence. They realized that Dick is more than just the mask that he wore, and took us on a journey that examined and highlighted this character like never before, all while keeping him the same Dick we all know and love.
They also gave us 4 pages from Grayson #12 filled with hundreds of quotes, pulled from decades worth of material and…
The Agent 37 theme song. Enough said.
Most Indelible Moment
This image is now firmly embedded in my psyche. I’m not even talking about the story. Just this one shot of The Joker crawling out from under a bed. It gives me the shivers. In a way, this is actually my biggest take-away from the New52. Read into that as you will.
Best Single Issue Non-Bat Book: Gotham by Midnight #9
Cancelled too soon, Ray Fawkes and Juan Ferreyra gave us a Jim Corrigan the likes of which we haven’t seen since John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake’s Spectre run in the 90s. This single, devastating issue redefined the Spectre and was a cataclysmic blow to Corrigan. The shocking conclusion is well worth reading the whole series, but this single issues still stands out as one of the best things written since Flashpoint and Ferreyra’s art is breathtaking.
Best of Future’s End: Harley Quinn: Future’s End #1
Future’s End was a mixed bag of mostly throw-away speculative alternate endings, but Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti (with Chad Hardin on art) gave us the team-up we’ve probably always wanted but now may likely never get: Harley and Joker back together again–in love and poised to kill one another. Forget the gimicky lenticular cover and absurd “marooned on a lost island” premise; this book is brilliantly executed: both mindlessly funny and equally violent; all you could hope for from this crazy couple who always puts the “hot” in psychotic.
Best Batman single story: “Terminal”, Detective Comics #35-36
Benjamin Percy (writer) and John Paul Leon (artist) gave us in two issues what many of Batman’s year-long arcs failed at: a gritty real-world Batman dealing with stakes grounded in villainy we can recognize and relate to (biological warfare, terrorism). This story maybe wasn’t for everyone, but it’s a perfect example of how a Bat-book can be smart, tightly scripted, and impactful. I like the colorful antagonists as much as the next person, but this story brings Batman’s heroism much closer to home.
Best Bat-Book: Detective Comics (Buccelato and Manapul)
This run had serious problems, but its “Icarus” arc was outstanding until its finale. Buccelato eschewed the standard Batman narration and instead gave us a chance to observe the Dark Knight without the inner monologue. And Manapul was, well, Manapul.
Best non-Bat-Book: THE OMEGA MEN!
Tom King, Barnaby Bagenda, Romulo Fajardo Jr., Trevor Hutchinson, and Toby Cypress delivered one of the most incredible all-around productions I’ve ever enjoyed in any medium. High art—from the scripts, to the pencils, to the colors, to the covers, to the marketing. A special book that sold me on Tom King forever.
Best Creative Team: Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok, Justice League
I would have chosen the Omega Men team again, but that would be boring. Johns and Fabok spent less than two years together on Justice League, but it was easily one of the greatest runs I’ve read.
Best moment involving Martian Shapeshifting: Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, and Gabe Eltaeb from Martian Manhunter #1:
Favorite Arc: Batman Vol. 1: Court of the Owls & Batman Vol. 2: City of the Owls
For me, this is one of the best Batman stories out there. Forget the New 52, just in general. Most of what I love about this story is the ties it has to Gotham, the people of Gotham, and Gotham’s history! This is one of the rare instances where the city of Gotham actually feels like a character. Plus, we get to see Batman showcase a range of his talents, including his detective skills, while also tapping into the Wayne family history. In my opinion, it was a nearly perfect set-up for an amazing villain! Unfortunately, the Court of the Owls haven’t been handled well at all since this arc… (Also, I want to note that I would also include the Batman: Night of the Owls companion with this, just for the sake of capturing the breadth of the Owls. I’m probably in the minority on this one, but I feel like it’s worth it just for the sake of adding Dick’s storyline into the mix… Again, I’m probably in the minority here…)
Runners up: Justice League: Darkseid War, Batman & Robin Vol. 1: Born to Kill, Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Kicked in the Teeth
Best Issue: Batman & Robin Annual #1
This issue has soooooo much heart, and I love it for that! If you’re curious about the “softer side” of Damian, or a good father/son bonding narrative, then you should definitely check this out.
Best Creative Team: Genevieve Valentine and Dan Brown/ David Messina, Catwoman
I’m going to be honest, my instinct wants to say Tom King, Tim Seeley, and Mikel Janin for Grayson or
Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok for Justice League… but I’m not. Instead, I’m going to say Genevieve Valentine and Dan Brown/ David Messina for Catwoman… but strictly because of Genevieve Valentine. I don’t think people fully understand what she did with this title. After an excruciatingly bad run from Anne Nocenti (I’m not joking… it was probably the worst comic run I’ve ever read), Valentine had the impossible task of rebuilding Selina Kyle’s world and reputation. If that weren’t enough, she had to do it without actually being able to use Catwoman due to a change in the character’s direction that occurred in Batman Eternal. So when most people just wanted a good Catwoman story, they were forced to take a narrative of Selina leading the Gotham mob. But over time, Catwoman slowly returned, and Selina dug her claws deeper and deeper into Gotham as story arc and character threads built upon itself each
month. Unfortunately, right as Valentine built a great foundation and launching point, she was replaced…
Best Non-Batman Story: Green Arrow by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino
Jeff Lemire’s run of Green Arrow is probably the biggest surprise that I encountered from the New 52. After a rather mediocre streak of various creative teams, Lemire and Sorrentino jumped onto the book and deliver my favorite Green Arrow story ever. Yes, EVER! Go read this book!
Best Book (Batman division): Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl
Look, Grayson was amazing, and the final stretch of Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated almost squeezed in here, but I’m going with the oddball choice of Gotham Academy just for the fact that it worked. “Harry Potter, but with Batman” is one of those fun ideas you hash out with your friends that may work as a “that’s so awesome” in-joke or, at best, a fun one-shot, but the book itself proved to be so much more than a gimmicky premise: it’s a coming-of-age story, an exciting adventure comic, and the perfect place for obscure characters to get a second life. In a lineup of reboots and rehashes of old ideas in new skin, it was one of the few books that genuinely felt new.
Plus, it introduced the best new character of the past decade.
And as we all know, Maps is the best.
Runners up: Grayson; Batman Incorporated; Batman: Zero Year
Best Book (non-Batman division): The Omega Men by Tom King, Barnaby Bagenda, Romulo Fajardo Jr., Trevor Hutchinson, and Toby Cypress
The best Green Lantern book in years, it’s also a book of hard questions without obvious answers, heroes who may be villains, and the toll that compromise takes on personal ideals. It’s not an easy book, but the slow burn more than pays off and leaves everything the way it should: messy and unfinished, just like real life. Just like a real war.
Best creative team: Tom King, Tim Seeley, Mikel Janín, and Jeromy Cox, Grayson
Yep. Beauty, wit, and intrigue. The others covered it nicely, so just look at the pretty picture.
Best multi-limbed cybernetic mammal (undead/reanimated division): Four-legged Zombie Orca, Grayson #6
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
So there you have it: Batman News’ picks for the best of the New 52. Sound of with your favorites in the comments, and let us know what you’re thinking of Rebirth so far.