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Top picks from DC’s new 52 relaunch

By Staff | May 29, 2013

DC’s New 52 relaunch, the emphasis of comic companies on collecting stories in trades and the proliferation of comic books at libraries provided a perfect storm for me to do something I’d never done before: read every part of a major publisher’s universe.

Granted it took some time; the New 52 debuted in September 2011, and the first trades were released in May 2012. But this May, with volume one of “Captain Atom,” I finished reading every first volume of the 52 relaunched books.

What does this accomplishment mean? Probably that I read too many comics.

Reading all these comics didn’t make me see the genius of kind-of rebooting the main line of DC Comics and muddling continuity in the process of trying to de-emphasize it and appeal to new readers. Nor did it prove all the negatives I thought the move could bring. There was good, bad, ugly and some books whose classification shifts based on the perception of the reader.

I’ve reviewed a few favorites before, but now, having examined the whole, here are my picks for the top 10 series in the new DCU:

1. “Aquaman” – The first issue’s mixture of drama, humor and respect for a character who rarely receives any continued throughout volume one. You’ll never look at Aquaman the same way again.

2. “Action Comics” – I thought yet another retelling of Superman’s origin had bad idea written all over it, but it was written by Grant Morrison. It turned out to be an exciting read where the modern take compliments the classic story but never overshadows what made it great in the first place.

3. “Batgirl” – Not thrilled about replacing Oracle with another gal in a Batsuit, but Gail Simone knocks it out of the park with a heroine who fears she can’t live up to the high standards she’s set for herself as she returns to her calling from a devastating injury.

4. “Batman” – I though the first New 52 wave had way too many bats, but this series by Scott Snyder was an excellent showcase for the caped crusader, pitting him against the ominous Court of Owls.

5. “Batwing” – David Zavimbe is an agent of the Bat who has a lot in common with Bruce Wayne but is his own man, not just Batman in Africa.

6. “Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.” – Writer Jeff Lemire’s “Animal Man” got a lot of early praise, but this was my favorite of his New 52 startups, featuring a sword-wielding Frankenstein monster pitted against all manner of science gone weird and wrong. The offbeat art by Alberto Ponticelli provides the atmosphere.

7. “Superboy” – Redone from the ground up, this version of the Boy of Steel has some of Superman’s powers and DNA but none of the moral compass that came from being raised by the Kents or having the real Supes to serve as a mentor.

8. “Animal Man” – The aforementioned early praise was earned with a tense storyline that made you feel for ordinary people in extraordinary (and more than a little gruesome) circumstances.

9. “Teen Titans” – As he did in “Superboy,” writer Scott Lobdell starts from scratch here and gives several members, like newcomer Bunker, unique voices in what could be a rather formulaic setup.

10. “Demon Knights” – As unpleasant as parts of this medieval-set series were, the first storyline as a whole was different and compelling, featuring not just anti-heroes but outright scum and villainy fighting on the side of good.

Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic “Support Group.”