Ranking the New 52: The Top 5

My ranking of the first wave of DC’s New 52 titles is finished. Here are the top five.

5. Batwoman

JH Williams likes doing horizontal spreads, but he paces those as if it’s an ordinary page. As a result, this is probably one of the most padded of the new 52 books. But it’s really beautiful to look at. This is the title that writers and artists are going to steal from the most.

The main villain is creepy. Kate Kane’s status quo is interesting, as she navigaties her role as one of many vigilantes in Gotham City. I like her relationships with her dad, sidekick and lover. And there’s an excellent twist in the fourth issue when the sidekick decides to go out to Gotham City. You think what the villain does is nasty, until Cameron Chase shows up.

Batwoman was #10 on CBR’s list of the best comic books of 2011. It was the second highest ranking achieved by any of the new DCU titles. Batwoman was also the fifth-favorite mainstream comics title of 2011 for Oliver Sava of the Onion, the second-best showing for any of the 52 New DC titles. It was the eighth-best comic book and fourth-best new DCU title of 2011 for Complex.

4. Green Lantern

We’re five years into Geoff Johns’s run on Green Lantern, and this story proceeds from a status-quo changing  cliffhanger. But it’s still accessible to new readers, though it may require basic familiarity with the characters.

I like the new direction with Hal Jordan forced to team-up with his former mentor/ arch-enemy. There are many creative uses for the power of the Green Lantern, as well as some compelling restrictions for poor Hal. Artist Doug Mankhe balances the cosmic and the ordinary, while Geoff Johns reminds readers why there’s no question about whether he’s the most prominent Green Lantern writer. His run on the series is as transformative as Walt Simonson’s run on Thor, except the Kirby/ Lee Thor had a much reputation than the Broome/ Kane Green Lantern.

3. Wonder Woman

Brian Azzarello was not a writer I would have associated with Wonder Woman, but it turns out that he’s a perfect fit, turning the series into a combination of horror comic and palace intrigue, substituting the typical royal family with the Green Gods. There’s a gritty Golden Age sensibility to Cliff Chiang’s art. Kudos to the editor who realized that this combination would be so effective.

Wonder Woman was #11 on CBR’s list of the best comic books of 2011, the third-best showing for any of the new DCU titles. It was the ninth best comic book and fifth-best New DCU title for Complex.

2. Aquaman

Johns and Reis present an excellent take on possibly DC’s most maligned A-list hero.  It’s a tough combo to pull off, turning Aquaman into a badass hero who still gets no respect. Even if he’s more powerful than Superman when he’s underwater.

Mera is a kickass superhero wife. The new enemy is creepy and effective. I might be giving this book bonus points, because it’s Aquaman. Scott Snyder kicking ass on Batman, or Geoff Johns kicking ass on Green Lantern isn’t as much of a surprise, as this guy being in one of my favorite monthly titles.

Aquaman was #15 on CBR’s list of the best comic books of 2011, the sixth-best showing for any of the new DCU titles.

1. Batman

The central mystery is fantastic, and it’s set-up rather efficiently. In contrast to the Dark Knight monthly, the generic parts you expect to see in most Batman comics work. When Bruce Wayne gives a speech, it’s actually pretty good. And the new tools in Batman’s arsenal are impressive, and cleverly utilized.Snyder is skilled at coming up with great death-traps for the Caped Crusaders, along with satisfying explanations for how he gets out. And Greg Cappulo handles it all with aplomb.

There are things that could easily be major plot points in other titles that are simply done as asides here, like the illusion Batman sees when he’s feverish and trapped in a maze, the unconventional team-up with the Joker, or Batman’s fight with the toughest of Gotham’s five railroad tunnels gangs. This is stuff later writers will exploit for TPB-length stories, and I can completely understand why this title is the Lynchpin of the first major Post-Flashpoint crossover. One of the best things about the new 52 has been the transformation of Scott Snyder into one of the biggest name writers in superhero comics.

Batman was #18 on CBR’s list of the best comic books of 2011, the seventh-best showing for any of the new DCU titles. Snyder’s run on Detective Comics and Batman was also the third-favorite mainstream title of 2011 for Oliver Sava of the Onion, the best showing for any of the 52 New DC titles. Complex.com also had Batman as the third best comic book of 2011, the second best showing for any of the new DCU titles. It’s also consistently DC’s second-best selling book, a great showing for Scott Snyder (who was largely unknown two years ago) and Greg Capullo, who had spent the previous decade in relative obscurity at Image.

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About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. Currently, I’m writing a few comic books about my grandparents’ experiences in Soviet Estonia for Grayhaven comics. You can email me at mistermets@gmail.com
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