Well, the New 52 is just about at its end, with DC Rebirth coming up next week and the last of the New 52 books ending over the course of the next few months. And while the New 52 has become something of a punchline for many fans, let’s not forget the good times that came with it. Let’s be honest with ourselves and admit that there WERE good books, as well as the bad. So, with that in mind, I’ve decided that, before I seriously rag on the New 52 one last time, I should really take a look at some of my favourite comics from this era. Now, keep in mind, these are JUST the ones that I read. I’m well aware of the fact that there were other good comics that came out during the past five years under the DC banner that won’t be on this list. As such, if your favourites aren’t on the list, by all means, feel free to place your own in the comments. Also, keep in mind that there are books that, while good, just weren’t the overall greats of this list. So, books like Justice League, while having arcs I liked, also had a bunch of arcs I DIDN’T like, so they just missed the cut…though I DO have a bonus round for them. lol And, of course, books that are not a part of the main line, like Sensation Comics feat. Wonder Woman don’t count. Why we couldn’t have more books like it and Legends of Wonder Woman in the main line, I dunno, but for now, let’s start with one that’s probably kinda obvious to anyone who’s read my blog for a while…
Yeah, not shocking anyone with this pick, I’m sure. Most definitely my favourite of the books starring the New 52 Superman, and it’s one of the reasons I’m actually sad to learn that he’s dying. Yes, he is arguably the most inherently flawed of the mainstream Supermen, but when you have a good writer with a good story writing him, those flaws are used in good ways. We see how this Superman is still an inspirational figure in spite of these flaws by never giving up and continuously trying to do the best he can for the world. So yeah, while I’m obviously overjoyed to see the pre-Flashpoint Superman return to active duty, along with his wife and son, there will always be a little part of me that gets nostalgic for the Superman who didn’t always get it right, but nonetheless kept trying his best, for truth and justice.
I actually feel bad because I initially was unwilling to give this book a try. Why? Because they’d seemingly undone Babs’ past as Oracle as a means to make her Batgirl again, thus taking the position away from Stephanie Brown, who was nowhere to be seen for a long time. But while all that is true, I can’t deny that this book has had some great moments. Granted, I HATED the Batgirl Wanted arc, and Black Canary’s characterization in the beginning of the Stewart/Fletcher era rubbed me the wrong way, but the rest of it has been highly enjoyable. Some of my favourite moments are probably Alysia’s wedding, the end of the Simone era when Babs called in damned near EVERY superheroine on Earth, ALL of her annuals, the tie-in to Future’s End, that time she and Strix took on vampires, it’s just been a hell of a ride, and I hope that the next volume is just as fun.
For those that never read this book, I’ll keep the recap brief: Shortly after the collapse of the government sanctioned JLA, which was secretly meant as a fail-safe against the Justice League, three of its members, Stargirl, Martian Manhunter, and Green Arrow, found themselves teaming with Supergirl, Adam and Alanna Strange, Animal Man, and newcomer Equinox, to form a new Justice League: the Justice League United, set up in Canada, and meant to protect the world from extraterrestrial and paranormal threats. Of course, right off the bat, I was excited, since…well, do you know how long I waited for my country to get their own Justice League? Was awesome. But beyond that, getting to see some of the character interactions without the dread present in the JLA book that came before it was great too (Green Arrow and Animal Man playing off each other made for some decent comedy), and there was a lot of more traditional superheroing. In the later stages of the book’s existence, the team began rotating members in and out in order to deal with different situations, regardless of which side of the law they were on. Anyone from Batgirl to Poison Ivy, Swamp Thing to Vandal Savage, and so on could be brought in depending on what the situation called for. Unfortunately, this didn’t last long before the book’s cancellation, but the JLU has since appeared during the Truth story-arc in the Superman books, giving me hope that they’ll one day return to action.
I should probably note that, when I say Convergence is a favourite of mine, I’m not talking about the main series. This is primarily because…well, I didn’t read it, and from what I’ve read, there’s not really much of anything that good, other than the restoration of the Multiverse. Oh, there’s some stuff involving the New 52 version of Earth 2, but unfortunately, that’s been a SERIOUSLY mixed bag. You wanna know more about that, go check out the blog Helena Wayne Huntress for more details. But no, what I’m referring to as one of my favourites of the New 52 is all the tie-in stuff. Granted, that could be seen as cheating for one simple reason: IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE NEW 52. The Convergence tie-ins are about giving resolution to stories that happened before the New 52, letting the heroes of ages past get one last hurrah, and even setting up for maybe a few of them to return later on. And they’re all awesome! Nightwing and Oracle get married and kick ass (not necessarily in that order, lol), Lian is brought back to life, Stephanie Brown suits up as Batgirl again, Lois and Clark have a child, the JSA return, it’s all amazing! Hell, even Scott freaking Lobdell turns in a good Blue Beetle book! I didn’t even think it was possible for him to put out anything of quality, but I guess mathematically speaking, it had to happen EVENTUALLY.
…Yyyeeeaaaahh, suppose this isn’t much of a surprise to anyone. lol While I wasn’t a fan of the story where Jim Gordon was Batman, and I found Joker to be WAY over the top in terms of unstoppable villainy is concerned, it’s really hard to not consider this book one the best of the past five years. Snyder and Capullo have simply been on fire for this era, and it’s sad to know that, at least for a while, that team of theirs is over. Although as hard as it is for me and other readers, I gotta imagine it’s even harder for them. But yeah, you guys should all know all of my favourite moments from this book, and if you don’t, I made a list of them just before the Superheavy story-arc. Point is, if you’re a Batman fan and you’ve been avoiding this book for the New 52 branding, don’t. It’s at least worth your time to check out.
So those are my favourite books of the New 52 in terms of overall quality. And now, the bonus round for all the arcs of books that I liked.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Huntress and Power Girl fighting a giant Irradiated Man in a Japanese harbour! All it needed was for Godzilla and Dragonzord to show up to make it the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen! XD
…Not to self: Review Darkseid War once the entire storyline is finished. It is easily my favourite story of the New 52 Justice League. Also, I thought Origin worked as an introduction to this new timeline, and the Amazo Virus was pretty awesome, too, and marked the point in which Geoff Johns finally found his groove with writing Wonder Woman’s character.
Cross World was great, and presented one of my all-time favourite images of Wonder Woman, and the stuff with Mongol and Toymaster is admittedly dumb fun that resolved in an awesome team-up involving Supergirl, Batgirl, Steel, Red Hood, and Krypto.
Y’know, DC, right after the engagement, I was totally gonna stick with this book. Then you called it off, the creative team left as a result, and then you did the stupid vampire thing. Just saying, you had a great thing gift-wrapped for you. I sincerely hope, though, that since Rebirth is apparently nixing the whole heroes-can’t-be-married thing, with the old Superman who is married to Lois Lane being back and Aquaman and Mera being engaged, that Batwoman finally is allowed to get married in Detective Comics.
Ultimately proved to be hit and miss, but I liked it for the most part. Could’ve done without Casey being damned near torn apart, but watching her make her badass comeback with a cybernetic arm-cannon was awesome. I mean, yeah, it’s another case of extreme violence against women in a comic, but it’s hard not to watch her in the hospital bed right after losing her arm and eye and not grin ear-to-ear when she’s still being like “Aw, fuck it, just put a giant arm-cannon on me, and I’ll fuck these guys up! And Calvin, you better make sure you haven’t completely screwed things up by the time I show up, or your ass is grass!” XD
I unfortunately can’t really justify putting Nightwing on the top 5, but that’s less to do with the quality of the stories told in it and more to do with the constantly changing status quo that was really only a thing strictly because of stuff happening in the other Bat Family books before ending due to events in Forever Evil. Oh, and as a side-note, SO glad to see that Nightwing is in blue again, but not sure where this is going with him as a member of the Court (or Parliament, I guess) of Owls.
I can’t say enough how much I adored the team-up with Power Girl. Was just great.
I feel like I MIGHT’VE put this on the list if I’d read through the entire thing and it didn’t delve into the cheesecake quite as much as it did, soooo…Eh, call it sixth, I guess. lol
Again, DC, you had me right up until Evil Superman working for Darkseid, and Thomas Wayne as Batman. Then you completely lost me. And THEN you pissed me off with World’s End and the first arc of Earth 2: Society. Seriously, like I said before, go read Helena Wayne Huntress’ blog for more details, but suffice to say, it’s been a MESS, one that I hope gets cleaned up soon. I DO recommend the Tower of Fate arc, though.
Problematic for me personally at times, but still enjoying it, and glad it’s here. 🙂
And that’s all my favourite stuff of the New 52. Like I said before, if you’ve got a book that you really liked from this era that wasn’t on here, by all means, leave your own list in the comments, and be sure to check back in the future when I go over the worst of this era. Ja né!
So, Superman Unchained sadly ended last week with its 9th issue…which was actually WAY past the original release date. And unfortunately, it kinda shows, what with stuff like Lex Luthor still being a villain in this, whereas nowadays he’s a member of the Justice League (no, seriously, Lex Luthor in the Justice League, that’s a thing now). Really, though, since Superman Unchained was telling its own self-contained story, it’s best read in a single sitting. Heck, I could easily see it made into an animated movie someday. So I DO get why it was only 9 issues in that case. It’s just, I would’ve loved to see Scott Snyder continue to write Superman, since he clearly gets the character and his supporting cast, and this book legitimately feels like a Superman story, which is sadly something that’s kinda rare nowadays.
With that said, one of the perks of the story being over is that I can re-read it and pick out some of my favourite moments and aspects of it. The ones that stuck out, the ones I missed for whatever reason and am catching on the second run-through, and so on. And, because some of these are from the newest issue, obviously, spoilers ahead. If you want to read Superman Unchained for yourself without prior knowledge of what happens, stop here, there’s no turning back. Otherwise, let’s go through my 5 Favourite Moments of Superman Unchained, starting with the one that made me realize just how much I frigging loved this book…
So a terrorist group called Ascension have taken control of a construction robot called Apollodorus, and used it to try and knock over the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. For those that don’t know, here’s a little trivia: The Burj Khalifa is the current record-holder for the world’s tallest free-standing structure, standing at 829.8 metres tall (2,722 ft), possessing 163 floors (plus 46 maintenance levels in the spire and two underground parking levels), and can easily house people in the tens of thousands at any given time. If this was the Golden Age and Superman could still only leap tall buildings, this would be one he’d likely crotch himself on trying to get over. 😛 Regardless, Superman arrives with only 19 seconds until the megatall skyscraper hits the ground, and even with his vast array of powers, his options are extremely limited. He can’t simply push it back into place, since it’d just break apart from the stress. Can’t reinforce the steel with heat vision and freeze breath, it’d kill everyone even remotely close to the glass. And the Apollodorus is still in the area, trying to keep his attention by beating down on him and knocking him into the water. So, with only four seconds left, he instead uses his superspeed on the water to create a huge water-spout, and then freezes it to keep the tower from hitting the ground. Scenes like this prove that Superman is more than just a flying brick, as we see him going through the various options and methods by which he could stop the tower from crashing and save everyone inside, and in the end, it’s only the most precise usage of just the right powers in his arsenal that manages to achieve his goal. I personally would’ve had each panel have a ticking clock instead of Clark’s narration telling us how many seconds were left, but that’s just me, and the sequence is awesome nonetheless.
One of the things that’s always important to remember about Superman is that he’s still first and foremost Clark Kent. A lot of people to this day, in writing Superman, tend to ignore his status as Clark Kent, and how he actually has his own ways of changing the world and inspiring people as himself, as Clark. Now, we see some good moments of Clark doing that in his new role outside of the Daily Planet, as a news blogger, but for me, the thing that stands out most is the flashback to his childhood we see in issues 5 and 9. Clark, after tapping into his ability to fly for the first time by catching a falling Lana Lang, returns home one day to find his mother held at gunpoint by a deranged neighbour who saw what happened. The man, Mr. Colder, proceeds to shoot Clark repeatedly with his shotgun, which of course does nothing to him except knock him to the ground, tear his shirt, and scare the crap outta him. But, when Mr. Colder believes that Clark’s mother would kill him to keep Clark’s secret safe and then plans to kill her first, Clark sends out a shockwave that knocks him across the barn, causing his already weakened heart to flat-line. However, even after what Colder had just done and tried to do, Clark can’t let him die, and manages to resuscitate him. We don’t see what happened next with Mr. Colder, but his expression suggests that he chose to keep Clark’s secret. And keep in mind, this is LONG before Clark ever considered donning the red, blue, and yellow (though mostly blue nowadays, since DC decided to do away with the perfect colour balance of his tights). This is Clark being a noble, heroic individual all on his own, choosing to save the life of a man who would’ve otherwise killed him if he had the ability, and in doing so changes Colder for the better.
Because this book shows Superman interacting with his allies a lot, we see Batman and Wonder Woman play supporting roles in this book. What’s great about their presence is that they both add their own awesome moments, but at the same time, they don’t detract too much from Superman, keeping the story centred around him and his conflicts with Ascension, General Lane, and Wraith. However, at one point in the book, they DO end up facing off with Wraith in the Batcave. Now, this moment is split into two parts, as to keep this at five moments, and because they take place with one more or less directly following the other. The first part is when Batman, doing all he can to slow Wraith down, first drops one of the Batplanes on them (and yes, I insist on calling them Batplanes for as long as there remains a character named Batwing), and when that doesn’t work, he remote activates ALL of the Batmobiles to crash into Wraith (which are thankfully insured…because Batman, lol). And as you can see from the photo above, he’s got plenty. But how can you possibly follow up something that awesome?
…Like that! XD In all seriousness, though, can we just take a moment to appreciate the fact that Wonder Woman is in a New 52 Superman comic, is kept in character, and the fauxmance is not referenced AT ALL? In fact, looking at this makes me realize, Scott Snyder has now written amazing stories for both Superman and Batman… … …Anyone else curious to see if he can make it 3 for 3? 😀
Okay, this one might seem like cheating, but after I failed to mention this in the last review, I really need to talk for a moment about how awesome Lois Lane is in this comic. Throughout this story, Lois is constantly involved in the conflict with the villains. She reports on the objects falling from space. She goes to meet with someone claiming to be from Ascension (and not too far from my neck of the woods, neither, right here in Maritime territory). She’s constantly put into danger and manages to get out alive. She stands up to her father at every turn. She SAVES Superman at one point. She manages to obtain an object that allows Superman to stop NUCLEAR ARMAGEDDON, and not in the stupid way like in Superman 4! There’s even points of the story where we see hints of their mutual attraction again. It’s just so refreshing to see her play a big part in a Superman story again, and how she’s able to be her own kind of heroic and inspiring figure in her own way.
Finally, as I already mentioned in my previous review, throughout this story, we see the conflict between Superman and the character Wraith. We see how they’re similar, how they’re different, how they can be powerful allies, how they’re natural antagonists, and one hell of a final knock-down, drag-out brawl between the two…that somehow STILL manages to have less property damage and death than Superman vs. Zod in Man of Steel (I know, I won’t shut up about it, but it’s true). And yet, by the end, when the only way that Superman has to save the world from Wraith’s people is a move that would ultimately be a suicide run, Wraith ultimately takes his place, seemingly with no regrets. Why? Because for all his talk of how he believed Superman did things the wrong way, he was so moved by his determination and commitment to doing the right thing that it changed him, that he couldn’t stand to watch Superman die. And as I said before, that is the TRUE superpower of Superman: The ability to inspire others to make the absolute best of themselves that they can.
So, those are my 5 Favourite Moments from Superman Unchained. Got one that wasn’t listed? Lemme know in the comments below, and hopefully, someday, we can see another great Scott Snyder-written Superman story… … …Oh, and I also demand Scott Snyder’s Wonder Woman someday, possibly in the pages of Sensation Comics. lol Ja né!
“Years ago, back when the world was on the brink of war, we sent a message into space. An equation that was more emotional than mathematical. An equation that added up to more than the sum of its parts–nonsensical, but aspirational. An equation that called out, and said ‘Help us be better’. We should never have turned to the stars for guidance. If there is an answer, it’s here on Earth with us. For years, I thought Superman was trying to be the answer to that infernal equation. And I hated him for it. But I see now what his actions say–There is no answer. Figure it out yourself. How to be better. As he is trying to do…And perhaps, now, at the end, I can admit that in being the farthest thing from an answer to that equation…he might have been the closest we’ll come to one.”
Superman Unchained, particularly this last issue, tells a story of Superman that shows that, even in being imperfect, even in not always knowing how best to do a thing, he is nonetheless an inspirational figure. He inspires by trying and doing what he believes to be the right thing, and while that might sometimes end in disaster, he nonetheless presses on and continues to inspire others to do the right thing, and to make themselves better for it. And, as we learn, he does so both as Superman and as Clark Kent, always fighting for what he believes in, even if the world begged him not to, because it was the right thing to do. As we see in this issue, he is given the means by which to save the world, at the cost of his own life, and is willing to make that sacrifice, to put the lives of many over his own. Yet, he’s still saved in the end, and not by a friend, but by an enemy. The story of Superman Unchained has not only been about Superman’s own struggles against Ascension, General Lane, and Wraith, but of Wraith himself. We see by the end of this issue that Wraith was so changed by his encounter with Superman, his enemy, that he gladly took his place at the last moment, sacrificing his own life in the Man of Tomorrow’s stead while showing no regrets upon doing so. And that is Superman’s greatest asset: Not his astonishing superpowers, nor his brain that processes information thousands of times faster than the average person, but his ability to inspire others to be the best person that they can be.
Scott Snyder once again has told an epic of a tale with Superman Unchained. I don’t think it’s his greatest work, but it’s still pretty damned awesome. I will say that part of what makes it so easy to enjoy this book is how much it feels like a legitimate Superman story, something that I feel has been missing from The New 52. Also, I don’t know exactly what went wrong with the publication dates and why the last few issues were set back as much as they were, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and suggest that Snyder, and Jim Lee for that matter, were simply so busy with other projects that things had to be pushed back, though I could be mistaken, and I apologize if I am. Still, even with that in play, I loved this book, and am going to miss it now that it’s over. Here’s hoping that Scott Snyder gets another crack at Superman someday.
…Oh right, Superman’s in Batman Endgame, isn’t he?! I suppose that should count for a great Superman re-
……………Or not. lol
WHOA, this is actually on time?! That’s right, it’s the return of…
So this week, there were some awesometastic comics released, so let’s check ’em out. But, since I have a lot I wanna say about one in particular, I’ve decided to give it its own individual post. So, the first comic up to bat today: Scott Snyder‘s Superman Unchained #3!
…Okay, I started this by making a baseball analogy, but I think football might be more appropriate here: Wraith (that’s the super-powered being they had underground) actually kicks Superman from the Salt Flats to Needles. However, it seems it was only to appease General Lane, after which Wraith asks Superman if he’d like to see his home…No, I’m not kidding. He comes off as somewhat socially awkward in that sense. So they go to his home, and Wraith and General Lane explain that in 1939, Wraith crashed into Earth and was found by General William Rudolph. Apparently he was involved in settling a number of wars over the past 8 decades, during which he was given the name Wraith, which stands for William Rudolph’s Ace In The Hole…and I will admit that I find that abbreviation kinda clever. Also, General Lane makes it clear what his problem with Superman is: It isn’t that he’s an alien, or that he finds him to be some all-powerful threat. Rather, Lane’s problem is that he WANTS Superman to go take down dictators and warlords, but instead he spends his time saving satellites and falling buildings, and by doing so, he lets more people die.
I should note for the record that I don’t find this being an example of Scott Snyder getting the message of Superman wrong. Rather, I believe he’s intentionally writing General Lane as someone who gets the message of Superman wrong to make a point. You see, if Lane had his way, Superman would have executed every last dictator in the world, as well as every single individual who was ever seen as a threat. However, Superman doesn’t do that, and with good reason: He’s not a one man judge, jury, and executioner. That’s not how he operates. To do so would not only compromise his ideals, but also put himself on too high a pedestal, which actually proves how wrong Lane’s got it, since he thinks Superman spends his time saving people to hear applause. And he doesn’t try to become overly involved in our every issue, because what would happen if we became so dependent on him and then, for whatever reason, he was gone? All that Superman can do is try to be the best person he can, so that we can learn from his example and be better for that, so that maybe someday we won’t need people like Lane going to war with evil diplomats, because there won’t be any. That’s something I feel a lot of writers continuously miss. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t even necessarily blame the writers currently making that mistake, since that’s just been the way it’s been for so long. However, I can tell that Snyder CLEARLY gets the message of Superman, because, in an odd way, only someone who truly got it could write one of the antagonists as having failed to get the message as bad as Lane does here.
But anyway, enough ranting for now. While all this is going on, Lois Lane‘ plane has been forced down into the ocean by the Ascension group, but she and the others aboard are saved by…a bald guy holding a glowing blue crystal. I assume we’ll learn his deal next time. Speaking of Ascension, they start a ruckus in Tokyo, so Superman and Wraith go to deal with it. Wraith mentions that he feels very honoured to be fighting alongside Superman, but lets it slip that it’s also a shame. Why? Because apparently, sometime after they deal with Ascension, Wraith is going to have to kill Superman…Like I said, kinda socially awkward. And all the while, Lex Luthor is up to his old tricks, and has a super-suit stomping around, looking to do some damage, and eventually decides to go kidnap Jimmy Olsen…because Lois wasn’t home at the time, I’m guessing. lol
So I have a question: When this book is LEAGUES above Action Comics and the main Superman title, why did we have to wait two years to get it? I’m just saying, the team of Snyder, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Dustin Nguyen bring a MUCH better Superman book than we’ve gotten at LEAST since the beginning of The New 52. Heck, even Grant Morrison‘s run with Action Comics wasn’t all that good, and he’s the man who wrote arguably the greatest Superman tale of all time. The only thing I can think of is that Snyder was busy writing too many books at the same time and was only able to do this when he left Swamp Thing, and that theory falls flat when you realise he’s STILL writing a bunch of other books at the same time as this now, so…Yeah, I have no idea. Either way, though, this is the main reason I decided I needed to take this time to talk about this book on its own. I’m aware that there are a LARGE number of jaded Superman fans out there right now, and I’m just gonna say this: If you’re sick of how Superman is represented in the current crop of DC Comics, but you still want something new to add to your collection, this is your best option. Is it in the same league as All-Star Superman? Of course not, not even close. But it’s still the best Superman book going right now, and everyone NEEDS to know this.
So that’s Superman Unchained. Next up, time to take a look at the other books I bought today, and I hope you brought tissues for one of them, because if not, you are SO screwed. Ja né!
- Exclusive Q&A with “Superman Unchained” creators Jim Lee and Scott Snyder (kindlepost.com)
- REVIEW: Snyder & Lee’s “Superman Unchained” #3 (comicbookresources.com)
- Superman Unchained #3 (comicvine.com)
- SDCC 2013: Superman Unchained Panel (comicvine.com)
- Creator Interview: Scott Snyder (retcon-punch.com)
- SDCC: Snyder Takes “Superman Unchained” From Concept To Page (comicbookresources.com)
- CBR TV: Snyder Dives into Batman’s “Zero Year,” “Superman Unchained” (comicbookresources.com)
- DC Comics Solicitations for November, 2013 (comicbookresources.com)
- SDCC LIVE: Superman Soars Into The New 52 (comicbookresources.com)
- Threat Level Wednesday – Dinosaurs vs Cowboys, Trinity vs Infinity and Man vs Machine (whatchareading.com)