Question of the Week: Is It Worth Reading DC’s New 52?

From the comments of the DC Reading Order:

Hey, I’m trying to get into DC comics and have started the new 52 just recently. Is it still a good starting point?? I know they stopped making it but should I still read it? If not what else should I do to get into the DC universe? Thank you!!

There are a couple ways of looking at this question. The first: Is the new 52 a good starting place for new readers? And the second: Is the New 52 worth reading?

I’ll tackle each one by one, as my answers are a bit different depending on what you’re looking for.

Is the New 52 a Good Starting Place For New Readers?

I feel uniquely qualified to answer this question (it’s a rare feeling, just let me have this) since the New 52 was my ongoing comics maiden voyage (but, like, manly?). I didn’t collect ongoing comics until the New 52, and was completely taken in by the marketing of the whole thing.

All new #1 issues!

Entry points for the entire DC Universe!

Basically the continuation of Grant Morrison’s already densely packed Batman Inc.! (Wait, that one might not fit…)

I picked somewhere shy of 10 titles to read, and alongside some friends and family, read a huge chunk of the New 52 as it launched.

Honestly? It was a lot of fun, and a generally solid introduction to the DC Universe. Action Comics gave me young Superman, Justice League gave me the formation of the world’s mightiest heroes (don’t cross the streams!), and Batman gave me, uh, a completely awesome Batman story that probably could have happened any time, but, uh, hey Bruce is younger!

I ravenously consumed these issues, and whether it was The Flash or All-Star Western (Jonah Hex), I was pretty thrilled to spend some time with these vaguely unfamiliar characters in new, take-it-from-the-top style stories.

I think part of why the New 52 worked as a starting place for me was that I didn’t bring DC Universe history or expectations to the table. Sure, I’d read some Superman and Batman greatest hits, but with the exception of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern, modern DC continuity was like quantum physics to me (well understood, but for the sake of modestly, rarely discussed at parties).

The single biggest reason I like the New 52 as a starting place, though, is that I had tried other starting places, or jump-on experiences with DC. They sucked.

I picked up Identity Crisis stone cold sober and I nearly lost an eye. I read Final Crisis like it was free and almost dropped out of school. Sure, Johns’ Green Lantern offered a welcome entry point, but that was just for one character, and even that carried the baggage of Parallax and Cyborg Superman.

So for my money, the new 52 is a pretty reasonably solid starting place for the DC Universe, even with all the changes currently happening. Here are the titles I would try first:

Action Comics

Batman

Justice League

Wonder Woman

Aquaman

Animal Man

Swamp Thing

(For the record, I also quite enjoyed All-Star Western, Batwoman, and Batman and Robin, but those are less obvious starting places.)

Is It Worth Reading The New 52?

While I have generally positive things to say about the New 52’s beginnings, let’s make a couple things clear:

One – There are much better DC comics, and with the exception of Snyder and Capullo’s Batman, there are clear cut better choices for every single character in this universe.

Two – The New 52 did not age well (With the exception of Snyder and Capullo’s Batman. You can go ahead and append that parenthetical to any sweeping negative generalization moving forward).

So, I think it’s worth starting the New 52, but in terms of reading it from start to finish like some kind of obsessive? No! Run, don’t walk, away from that idea.

By the New 52’s second year, I had completely stopped collecting any single series not named Batman, Wonder Woman, or Dial H For Hero (cancelled after 10 issues, go figure). DC did a great job with the marketing at launch, and then revealed they had completely no plan moving forward.

Mysterious seeds planted for seemingly enormous events turned into wilting flowers drowning in horse urine (I’m looking at you Trinity War). Undoubtedly, worthwhile series popped up throughout the life of the New 52, with some like Batgirl stepping up in the 9th inning throwing straight flames. But as a whole, the New 52 did not age well, culminating in a Convergence event that basically attempted to undo all the restrictions of the New 52 Universe (while simultaneously delivering the single worst core event series I’ve ever read).

Given all that, I think it’s a fine idea to start the New 52 to get a good feel for the characters, and several of these books when they’re at their best. Keep reading the ones you like and drop the ones that bore you like flies.

Read all of Snyder and Capullo’s Batman. Personally, I’d also recommend all of Azarello and Chiang’s Wonder Women, but that slows considerably and isn’t for everyone.

Otherwise, the DC Universe is loaded with non New 52 books that are fantastic comics.

Just to name a few…

Animal Man by Grant Morrison

Swamp Thing by Alan Moore

Starman by James Robinson and Tony Harris

Hitman by Garth Ennis and McCrea

Like, a million Batman books

All-Star Superman

The Flash by Mark Waid

Suicide Squad by John Ostrander and Luke McDonnel

Gotham Central

 

And that’s just the stuff this darn near DC Comics noob has read. Hope that helps!

7 Replies to “Question of the Week: Is It Worth Reading DC’s New 52?”

  1. Hey Dave, I just wanted to share my experience. I’ve always been a Marvel fan, but after finally (sort-of) catching up on all the events, I got tired of waiting for Secret Wars to begin, so I decided to hop on to a couple of DC titles, and I found that a couple of the New 52 books were much better jumping on points than others. For instance, Justice League and The Flash were all pretty much self-contained, but I found Green Lantern to be a bit confusing without having read Geoff Johns’ pre-New 52 run first. And despite finding myself being bored by a lot of the character’s story arcs, both Batman and Detective Comics kept me interested, but the tie-in between the two might leave you wondering what you missed. I enjoyed Superman, but the connections to Action Comics turned me off, mainly because I couldn’t stand Action Comics. I would personally recommend jumping on at this new initiative, “DCYou”, because, at least with most of the comics, you need little to no knowledge of the character to enjoy the new arcs. And some of the comics even begin with #1’s again (like Constantine, my personal favorite). That’s just my two-cents though. I never understood why people didn’t like the New 52, to me it made DC a little more accessible. But to each his own.

    1. Thanks for sharing the thoughts, Joe, that’s good feedback. I agree that something like Johns’ Green Lantern is a lot more indebted to pre New 52 comics than many of the other titles. And Grant Morrison certainly doesn’t make Action Comics easy 🙂 I enjoyed the run by the time the long game played out, but I can fully understand the many detractors.

      In terms of starting with DCYou, I certainly don’t advise against it. I just think you can also start with many of the New 52 titles. In some cases, like Cyborg, or We Are Robin, I actually think that New 52 background will help out quite a bit.

  2. Dave, thanks for the reply I really appreciate it its a lot of help!! I am still a little confused as to how the new 52 leads up to convergence and then DCYou… For example, does Geoff John’s Green Lantern Rebirth and The Flash Rebirth series come before or after the new 52? Same goes for blackest night and brightest day. I found this reading order online for DC what’s your opinion of it?
    http://collectededitions.blogspot.com/2012/10/best-dc-comics-new-52-guides-and-reading-orders.html?m=1
    Thank you so much

    1. No problem! All the series you mentioned are from before the New 52. That link is a good starting place for the full rundown of the wave 1 New 52 books.

  3. As always, great article, well written and informative.
    I just recently used New 52 as one of my (many and simultaneous…) entry points to DC Universe.
    I’m reading JL (for good or bad, it is the basis of the initiative), JL Dark, Flash and Wonder Woman, and I will read/try for sure Soule’s run in Green Arrow, Dial H, Demon Knights and Batman (when I finish the Morrison run…, even if I can’t really see (yet?) what other like you see in Morrison… I find him – only haven read a bit of Batman and a lot of New X-Men – vague/confusing/don’t-really-know-what-you-are-trying-to-tell-me, gimmicky and pretentious in general). Maybe I will try Action Comics (but it’s Morrison…) Batgirl and/or Batwoman.
    I’m only a few issues in each of the four I’m reading (more in JL and Flash).
    JL is entertaining, even if a bit dry to read, and with a very good art (Jim Lee, and very beautiful colors).
    I strongly recommend the Flash series: the script is meh but the art is gorgeous: specially page compositions (just look at the credits pages in each issue).
    JL Dark has an interesting (but quite twisted) plot/atmosphere, quite good characterization and good art.
    Wonder Woman is the worst of the four right now, only 4 issues in. I like Azzarello in 100 Bullets, but I find him dull here (and I find Apollo’s word games very silly and forced), and I can’t see what the hype is about regarding the art (see Flash). I heard issues 6-10 are the really good ones, so I’ll wait and see for now.
    You’re spot on regarding Green Lantern. I tried to enter with Rebirth, but after reading the first issue, I felt that it was a very bad entry point, and found/ decided that I had to jump back to The Death of Superman and Emerald Twilight. I used this page:
    https://stefanmesch.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/green-lantern-timeline-reading-order/
    as a reference (you can see my comments there… :). I plan to read arcs 21-25 mentioned there and then try Rebith again (but I already know my share of the Green Lantern mythos and main characters: an absolute neophyte should jump back further).

    1. Believe it or not, I had the same issues with Morrison’s Batman. He’s so deep and well-versed in comic book lore that it comes off completely confusing a lot of the time. Totally get that. That said, when some of his stuff clicks, there’s huge payoff. He loves comics and their history like no other writer I can think of (reading his biography now, and it shows big time), so it’s definitely an effort, but a worthwhile one!

      1. As almost any comic reader out there, I’ve had the feeling reading some comics that I’d need to know more about the history/universe/mythos to fully understand/enjoy them. But that is not the feeling that I have reading Morrison. I know a lot about the X-Men and still have a hard time digging New X-Men (yes, I know you love it…)
        A narration has to be entertaining and have sense without knowing more than the most basic references, and get more and more rewarding the more references you know. I really despise the “emperor new clothes” defense of some pretentious “piece of art” I see very often (nothing personal, thanks for answering :). I read Sandman and I can enjoy and understand it without grasping the lot of references there are. Then I re-read with comments at hand to try to understand and enjoy all the references.
        After reading a lot about comics, and witnessing the devotion that Morrison causes, I believe that the “clicks” approach is accurate, but I’m afraid it is more about the style than particular works. Some of you (a lot of you, it seems) like what I call the “gimmicky”, sometimes almost insulting to the intelligence, Morrison way of coming off with “crazy ideas” (which you’ll define as a “whirlwind of imagination”). Some of you can enjoy those ideas without the need for them to actually made a lot of sense. For me, the craziest the idea, the more justified it should be from both a logical point of view and a narrative one. I fell like Morrison is the Dr Who of comics. Either it clicks, and you thoroughly love it, or it doesn’t and can’t see what the fuss is all about.
        Morrison is a fundamental comics author, and art is a very subjective medium and I don’t feel as Superior (today at least 😉 as to tell anyone what he should enjoy and for what reasons. I even envy that you are able to enjoy Morrison as much as you do. I’ll try to keep reading Morrison because his comics are important (for the industry, and for the characters involved) and hope that some of his works “click” with me (All-Stars Superman?, JLA run?, Animal Man?…)

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