Heroes, Monsters and Women in Pants — Your Guide to the DC Reboot
Big news, comic book fans! DC — the comic book line that brought us Batman and Superman — is rebooting! This September, they will start 52 iconic and not-so-iconic titles over at number one and create a brand-spanking-new continuity to draw in younger, hipper audiences. Comic book blogs have been very exciting to watch since the announcement, as fans engage in commentary, critique and wild speculation. For those of you who have never really been into comics, now is a great time to start, since the confusing, decades-long, often contradictory storylines that can overwhelm the beginner will no longer be an issue. While we wait for September, here’s a guide to starting out with DC, or reviving your interest in DC after a long hiatus.
But first, the novice’s guide to enjoying comics:
1. Find a good comic book creator that you really like. If you need assistance doing so, check out Comics Should Be Good — possibly the best comic book blog on the Internet. Read this blog. Live this blog. Love this blog.
2. When you find your author, read their run on a title. Sometimes this means you jump into a series in the middle, but you can always look up continuity events on Wikipedia. Don’t feel like you must read the entire title back to 1965 just to comprehend it. That way lies madness.
3. Once you reach the end of your author’s run, put the series down. You can keep going if you like the new writer, but don’t feel obligated. You will just end up disaffected and bitter, complaining on an Internet forum somewhere. Nobody wants that. There is enough nerdrage in the world.
Here are some of the series I have found with this deceptively simple technique — my back-road tour of DC. These are titles that will make you excited about DC comics and the reboot, even if you are not a super-fan.
Ed Brubaker’s Catwoman (Dark End of the Street, Crooked Little Town, Relentless, Wild Ride )
We’ve all heard of her, the femme fatale in the catsuit perpetrating daring thefts and outwitting Batman. In this line, Brubaker’s re-imagination of Catwoman, complete with an awesome new outfit and a take-no-prisoners attitude, combines with Darwyn Cooke and Cameron Stewart’s artwork to make a retro-noir concoction of wonderful. Catwoman becomes my favorite kind of anti-hero again in this run, masterminding thefts and playing both sides of the law just the way I love to see her. Catwoman will be rebooting in September, hopefully in the same excellent vein as this wonderful little run. (You may recognize Brubaker from the 2008 Great Graphic Novels for Teens title, Fantastic Four: Books of Doom).
Mark Millar’s Superman: Red Son
This three-issue miniseries gives us an intriguing alternate scenario. What if, instead of landing in Kansas, baby Kal-El landed in the middle of the Soviet Union? The ramifications of the change are dramatic, leading to a character fascinatingly like and unlike the Superman you know. Superman is a dictator! Batman is an anarchist! Lex Luthor is…still Lex Luthor! Now, why not reboot like this, DC?
Grant Morrison’s Animal Man (Animal Man, Origin of the Species, Deus Ex Machina)
This story features Buddy Baker, who has the power to duplicate the abilities of any animal in his range. Of course, Grant Morrison being the father of postmodern comics, what starts as your average B-list superhero story becomes perhaps the first metaficitional comic as Animal Man learns the true nature of the world he inhabits. Animal Man is also on my happy list for being a vegetarian and wearing a cool jacket. This title is getting rebooted in September, a fact that excites me to no end, but Morrison will be writing Superman instead. He did great work on All-Star Superman (a 2008 GGNT lister) that I’m sure it will be awesome.
In Seven Soldiers of Victory, Morrison brings us the kind of convoluted, insane tale he loves to tell. A band of seven soldiers is fated to defeat the Sheeda — a race of time-traveling fey who survive by destroying human civilizations. The problem? The Sheeda already know this, and so target and eliminate teams of seven throughout history. In order to succeed, the seven soldiers of this age must fight together without ever meeting. Morrison uses characters I really love — Witchboy, Bulleteer, Zatanna — to craft a story so intricate I needed annotations to understand what was going on. One of my surprise favorite characters from Seven Soldiers, Frankenstein, gets his own title during the reboot, which should be a happy event for you fans of horror comics. Personally, I’m hoping Zatanna will appear in Justice League Dark.
Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing
Saga of the Swamp Thing collects all of Alan Moore’s work on this classic horror comics title. This series follows scientist Alec Holland, who, terribly injured in an accident, becomes the shambling plant monster known as Swamp Thing. Alan Moore — the other father of postmodern comics — takes this tale from the classic Gothic story of a monster trying to regain his humanity and makes into something much more interesting, with a few plot twists along the way. If you love a cocktail of intelligent plots, good art and environmentalism, this is the comic for you. Swamp Thing is also getting a reboot, which, if it’s half as awesome as Moore’s run, will be a heck of a thing. (Alan Moore also wrote Top 10, a 2007 GGNT title.)
In this elegant volume, gorgeously illustrated by J. H. Williams III, our hero Kate Kane struggles with the appearance of a new supervillain who reopens old scars — in more ways than one. This comic is a great one to read during LGBTQ Pride Month, as Kate is a lesbian (and one of the best-handled depictions of a homosexual character in superhero comics). The art in this title is the real show-stealer. It is unbelievable — you will want to read this one three or four times to fully appreciate all the visual storytelling that’s going on. Batwoman will be one of the 52 rebooting titles, so if you like Elegy, you should be very, very excited indeed.
Wonder Woman can be a hard character to write for the same reasons Superman is a hard character to write — she’s hard to humanize. Rucka does a great job at creating a Wonder Woman you can really root for, strong, graceful, serene and a formidable opponent. In this series you get to see Wonder Woman fight adversaries who want to take everything away from her — her sight, her reputation and eventually her homeland and her patron gods. Unsurprisingly, Wonder Woman is rebooting with the rest. The new Wonder Woman will wear pants, which I must confess I appreciate, but will she be hold a candle to Rucka’s confident, courageous lady? We’ll see.
Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey (Of Like Minds, Sensei and Student, Between Dark and Dawn, The Battle Within, Perfect Pitch, Blood and Circuits, Dead of Winter)
Birds of Prey is the ultimate popcorn flick of comics. No overarching story arc to speak of, no deep, metafictional themes. Just a group of heroic women kicking butt together. Gail Simone is a boss for the way she handles the characterization of each of the super-ladies and their friendships with each other. Add that to some classic kung-fu action and this series is genuinely fun to read. Birds of Prey will be rebooting…but Gail Simone will not be writing it. She’ll be writing Firestorm. What the heck, DC? (Gail Simone is also the author of the 2009 GGNT lister Welcome to Tranquility.)
For those of you who want to read more about this whole reboot thing, here are the articles that are the most interesting from Comics Should be Good:
Some of DC’s new titles will be aimed specifically at teens. Take a look.
Are you excited about the reboot? Terrified? Did I forget your favorite DC title? Please let me know in the comments!
–Maria Kramer is reading another fun DC offering, Starman.