Sunday, September 04, 2011

A New Reader's Guide to the DC Relaunch

If, like me, you spend way too much time reading about comics on the internet, you probably see a lot of repeat questions. And, because the DC relaunch is dominating comics news as of late, most of them have something to do with that. The ones I'm most interested in are the ones from new readers. While the reboot is designed to be new reader friendly, there are a few issues that seem to be tripping people up, and I'm going to my best give answers to all of those questions. Whether you want to know why so many books have batsymbols on them or whether you should read Superman or Action Comics, this is your guide to the DC relaunch!

There are four titles starring the eminent Bruce Wayne, a point that seems to have confused many a perspective new reader. People aren't sure what title they should read, or if they need to read all of them. Luckily, this has a simple solution: pick whatever book looks the best, and stick with that. All of the books have different creative teams and will be telling their own separate stories. If you need help deciding which title to choose, here's a guide:

Written by Scott Snyder with art by Greg Capullo, Batman is the closest thing there is to a "main" Batman book. It's also the book that I'd recommend to anyone trying to choose a Batman title. Scott Snyder just finished up a fantastic run on Detective Comics, and has a lot of great ideas for the stories he'll tell in this one. Snyder looks to be using new villains along with many old ones, and this should be a great primer to the world of Gotham. Readers can expect plenty of mystery, plenty of great fights, and lots of Bruce just being generally badass- all things that make a great Batman comic. Artist Greg Capullo is best known for his work on Spawn, but he's already shown off some stunning preview pages, and I really think readers are in for a treat. I'd especially recommend this title to fans of the Arkham Asylum video game and to those who have read a few of the better known Batman titles, like Hush and The Long Halloween. All in all, I expect this to be a great comic that most new readers can easily enjoy.

The primary difference between Batman and Detective Comics is that it sometimes focuses on characters other than Batman. Robin, Commissioner Gordon, and Batwoman have all been the primary character in Detective Comics at one point or another. However, I suspect that it will be focusing solely on Bruce for the time being, which makes the creative team the primary difference between this and Batman. Detective Comics is written by former Batman writer Tony Daniel, who is sharing art duties on the book with Ryan Winn. Daniel's work isn't to my personal taste, but his Batman run sold well, and he isn't someone I'd tell readers to avoid. Daniel is planning on introducing several new characters, including multiple villains and a love interest for Bruce Wayne. If you're not interested in villains past and want something brand new, I'd suggest checking this out, and this should sate the urges of anyone who can't get enough of Batsy. For those of you who are only looking to pick up one Batman title, I'd suggest going with regular old Batman.

The Dark Knight is largely a showcase for David Finch, a popular Batman artist. In the past, this book was plagued by delays, but Finch now has assistance from artists Richard Friend and Jay Fabok, while Paul Jenkins will have completely taken over the books writing duties by issue three. In the past, The Dark Knight has had a supernatural focus, but early solicits give me the impression that this run of the book will be a little more focused on reality. The biggest reason to buy this book is for the art, and if your top priority in a Batman comic is having really great looking pictures of Batman, this may be the title you want to go with. With Batman going up against villainess The White Rabbit, this may also be a good title for readers who want a little cheesecake alongside their action scenes. For his first tale, Finch will be building off the events of several recent Batman stories, which means this book may be slightly less new reader friendly than the other Batman books. In spite of that, I still expect this book to pretty accessible, and those of you who like Finch's artwork should give it a look.

Batman and Robin focuses on the relationship between Bruce and his son, Damian Wayne. While this may sound intimidating to new readers who had no idea Batman even had a son, Damian serving as the Robin to Bruce's Batman is actually brand new, and this should be an easy jumping on point for anyone who wants an introduction to the character. Currently, this is the only title Damian will be appearing in, and I expect him to get as much screentime as Bruce in most issues, if not more. Because of this, I'd rule this title out for readers who only want to read one title on Batman. However, Damian is a great character, and this is a strong choice for anyone looking for a second Batman title. It'll provide readers with a different perspective of Batman, and will feature some nice looking art from Patrick Gleason. The main villain for the first arc of this story will be a new character called "NoBody", and the tale will delve into the personal life of Bruce Wayne as well as secrets about his past.

But what about all those other comics with Batsymbols on them?
New readers, here is a secret: people really like to buy any comics that have Batman and Wolverine on them. Because of this, publishers try to use the popularity of those characters to sell readers on other, newer ones. The titles with Batsymbols on them are part of what's commonly referred to as the Batfamily. This means that the one or more of the characters in the title has some kind of connection to Batman. For example, Nightwing stars Dick Grayson, a former Robin who was once Batman himself, while Batwing stars an African hero who received funding from Bruce Wayne. While several of these titles look like they're going to be great comics, they're all pretty separate from Batman, and you don't need to bother with them unless they interest you. If you are interested in checking out a few of these comics, I'd suggest Batwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws.

There are very few Superman titles in comparison to Batman ones, which makes his books a little easier for new readers to navigate. However, deciding between Superman and Action Comics can be tricky, so here's an idea of what you can expect from these two books.

Action Comics will begin in the past, and will serve as an introduction to the new, mostly rebooted Superman. The title will be written by Grant Morrison, who also wrote the hugely popular All-Star Superman. Morrison has promised an action packed tale and has even talked about doing an issue without a single cutaway. Morrison is known from pulling from the long forgotten history of characters, and Action Comics looks to be no exception. However, I expect this to be an added treat for observant older readers, rather than a hurdle to new ones. This title will feature art by the very talented Rags Morales, but I think there's a high chance of him being replaced on future issues, and I'd suggest against buying this title for the art alone. Overall, Action Comics is the ideal comic for new readers or readers who are just new to this take on Superman. It seems designed to give readers a strong understanding of the character and his motivations, and will give new readers an introduction to supporting characters like Steel. As an added bonus for Justice League readers, this comic will also show how Supes gets his Kryptionian armor.

Superman will be set in the present, and will feature many of the more well known Superman supporting characters, such as Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. While I can't give this as glowing a recommendation as I did Action Comics, I still expect it to be a very good book. It's written by George Perez, who had one of the all-time best runs on Wonder Woman. He's got strong characterization skills and is especially good at effectively utilizing supporting casts. For that reason, I'd suggest this title to those of you with a strong interest in the going ons of the Daily Planet, or for anyone who's interested in the Lois/Clark/Superman love triangle. While you won't get the backstory provided by Action Comics, this should still be an easy tale to jump into, and anything essential for readers to know should be mentioned in both comics. The art for the comic will be provided by Jesus Merino, but Perez is an artist himself and is still storyboarding the look of the comic. This should allow Perez to do some really interesting visual storytelling, and hopefully the comic will take full advantage of that.

What about Superboy and Supergirl?
I think that Superboy will be completely separate from Superman from a good long time. While Superboy is a clone made using Superman's DNA, any crossover action he has should be appearing in the Teen Titans title. Superman will be making an appearance in Supergirl's second issue, but I suspect his interactions with her will largely be confined to her comic, and it's nothing you need to read in order to follow Supes himself. Both books look promising, though, and if you like teen characters, you should give them a look.

Green Lantern
The Green Lantern titles are keeping more of their status quo than any other DC titles, which makes them a little trickier for new readers. All of the titles should be fine as a jumping on point, but they'll still be reliant on what came before, and readers may come away with some questions about the universe. Fortunately, the differences between the four books are easily explained, so here's a quick overview of the Green Lantern titles. 

The first issue of Green Lantern will pick where Green Lantern #67 left off, making this the most continuity heavy Green Lantern title. Fortunately, this title will also be written by Geoff Johns, who has succeeded in making comics like this accessible to new readers in the past. The current success of the franchise is largely because of his title Green Lantern: Rebirth, which provided a quick, simple summation of Green Lantern history before moving forward with new stories. Those wary of any continuity should stay away from the title, but those who just want a story they can understand shouldn't have problems. The focal character of the title will be Sinestro, who some of you may recognize from the Green Lantern film. He only recently became a Green Lantern again, and his return to the ring has made him many enemies. This title will be action-packed and will feature high-energy art from Doug Mahnke. This wouldn't be my number one choice for someone looking to get into Green Lantern, but it's a solid pick.

If you're looking to get a feel for the entire Green Lantern universe, Green Lantern Corps is your best bet. Many aspects of the Green Lantern mythos will be utilized here, and the title will introduce many lesser known Green Lantern characters. I will warn readers that the title features a large cast of characters, and new characters may show up on a semi-regular basis. While this series will also use some of what came before, it's getting a fresher start than Green Lantern, and overall, it'll be a good place for many to start. It's being written by Peter Tomasi, who's done a good job with this characters in the past, and is primarily drawn by Scott Hanna. Those of you planning on reading Justice League International may also want to give this book a look, as Guy Gardner will be a primary character in both titles. Fans of John Stewart, the Green Lantern seen in the Justice League cartoon, or any incarnation of Kilowog will also want to give this comic a chance. I expect this title to be the one with the most similarities to the upcoming Green Lantern animated series.

Want to know more about those colored rings you see people with? Give New Guardians a go. In the Green Lantern universe, there are also Red Lanterns, Blue Lanterns, and more, and this is the book that will showcase them. Several of the major players in this book are either brand new or recently introduced characters, and readers should have plenty of time to get to know them. In later issues, readers will also be introduced to Larfleeze, a wildly entertaining character I think most people will enjoy. This title will be written by Tony Bedard, a great writer who I think is hugely underrated. While you can expect plenty of action, you should also expect some humor and strong characterization. While this won't provide as solid an introduction to the Green Lantern universe as Corps, it'll be a great way to learn about the other rings, and I'd suggest taking a look at both titles to anyone who doesn't mind reading multiple books.

Are you filled with rage? Do you want a comic full of blood and anger and revenge? Then the comic for you, my friend, is Red Lanterns. Red Lantern rings are powered entirely by rage, and  every issue should show the characters taking that anger out on the enemies in their way. Like New Guardians, many of the characters in this comic are new, and readers should get a strong introduction to them. Peter Milligan, a talented writer known mostly for his work on Vertigo titles, will be creating the comic's story, while Ed Benes and Rob Hunter will be providing the art. Red Lanterns is a brand new title, and I've gotten the impression that it'll be fairly separate from the rest of the Green Lantern universe. This makes it a great pick for new readers just looking for something cool to read, but not the best choice for anyone hoping to use the relaunch to get into Green Lantern.

But what about the guy in the Justice League?
The first arc of Justice League is set in the past, and Hal Jordan is no longer a Green Lantern in the present. This will be dealt with in the first issue of Green Lantern, and should also be explained once Justice League's first arc concludes.

Justice League
The three Justice League titles share a name only, and the primary thing that they have in common is that they're all team books. Here's an idea of what you can expect from each one. 

Justice League is the flagship title of the DCnU, and was already released on August 31st. If you haven't had a chance to read the book yet, you can check out my review of the title here. While this is the place to read about DC's most well known characters, later arcs will also introduce readers to new or lesser known heroes like Element Woman and Firestorm. Having read the first issue, I can confirm that this should be very easy for new readers to follow, and it's a great choice for anyone who wants to get into the main characters of the DCU.  Readers can expect solid art, an easy to follow story, and a strong introduction to the entire team of characters. If you haven't started the series yet and don't mind waiting, I'd suggest jumping into the series after the first arc has concluded. You should be able to get a trade paperback of the arc for a good price, or buy all the previous issues at a discounted price via Comixology, and I think the story will read better when you take it in all at once.

While Justice League International should mostly be pretty separate from the main Justice League title, a quick glance at the cover should show you the one thing they have in common. So why is Batman in both titles? Aside from the "Batman sells" rule I mentioned before, the Justice League International is a team put together by the United Nations, and Batman will serve as the Justice League's representative. If your knowledge of DC comes primarily from cartoons and video games, and you'd like to get to know lesser known characters, this title is ideal. From Booster Gold to Plastic Man to August General in Iron, this title is the best way to familiarize yourself with DC's B and C list roster, many of whom are terrific characters. In the past Justice League International has been a humor filled title, and while I expect this to be a little more serious than JLI past, it should have plenty of laughs and should be a good, fun read overall.

Justice League Dark is title that focuses on the supernatural side of the DC universe, and is the showcase book for magic using characters. Magic has always been something that DC has done well, and like Justice League International, this is a great way to get to know some lesser known characters. A few of the book's characters, such as Zatanna and Constantine, may be somewhat familiar to new comic readers, but unrecognizable in their current incarnations. This is a brand new title and new readers should have no issues jumping right in. The title is written by Peter Milligan, who has done great work with several of these characters in the past, and features beautiful art by Mikel Janin, who is fairly new to the comics world. While you may see a few Justice League characters in that preview page, I don't expect the two titles to cross over at all, and you shouldn't worry about following both comics unless you're interested in them. All in all, this should be a cool read with something different to offer than the other two Justice League titles.

What about all the other comics? What if I want to read Wonder Woman or Demon Knights?
You're in luck! New readers should be able to jump into any of the new titles with very little difficulty. For a look at what titles I recommend, check out my 10 most anticipated DCnU Comics.

Read Batman, Action Comics, Green Lantern Corps, or whatever other comics strike your fancy. Most titles will be very accessible to new readers, even ones who don't like reading gigantic blog posts. ;)

By Marceline with 1 comment


Love it. Glad to see you spreading interest on some of these. Didn't even know about the White Rabbit and...good lord is she a massive slice of Cheesecake.

I honestly can't wait to get my hands on JLI. Booster Gold and Plastic Man have been two of my favorite characters for years. Can't wait to see what happens. Though...still waiting to see if Skeets shows up.

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