Understandably, if you’re trying to get into DC’s New 52, the Comic Book Herald guide including every single comic may be a bit intimidating.
As a result, Bis asks:
Any New 52 fast track guide coming soon ?
Well, now that you mention it…
Below you’ll find DC’s 2011 to 2016 New 52 comics boiled down to 25 suggested reads. It’s a fast track guide to take you through the most essential, most memorable, and sometimes best New 52 comics of the era. I’ll also list a link to the collected edition that will get you started with each series.
Keep in mind that if you want every single comic in order, and links to all the trades, you can check out Comic Book Herald’s complete New 52 reading order.
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DC Best Of The New 52 Fast Track!
1) Zero Year
DC’s Zero Year is largely a story set at about the halfway point of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s excellent run on Batman throughout the entire New 52. We’ll get to the full Snyder and Capullo run later, but since Zero Year marks the earliest days of the New 52 Universe, the storyline marks a logical starting place.
The DC Comics: Zero Year collection above includes Zero Year one-shot tie-ins through various DCU titles like Superman and Nightwing. These are less essential than the Batman issues, but can help color in the details of the New 52’s beginnings.
2) Grant Morrison’s Superman in Action Comics
Action Comics was actually published at the launch of the New 52, with Grant Morrison and Rags Morales telling the story of Superman’s early years. If you’re at all familiar with DC Comics, you know Grant Morrison has been one of their biggest writers for over 25 years, with books like Batman: Arkham Asylum, Doom Patrol, Final Crisis and All-Star Superman (among many, many others).
Action Comics isn’t Morrison’s best DC work (and really it’s not even his best Superman work thanks to the excellent All-Star Superman) but the strangeness of this pre-flight New 52 Superman has actually become underrated.
3) Justice League Origins
Geoff Johns and Jim Lee tell the New 52 formation of the Justice League in just about the most epic way possible. This collection likely sets the tone for a lot of the cinematic DC Expanded Universe.
I’m more of a fan of Geoff John’s work on Green Lantern throughout the 2000’s, but his Justice League is very consistent and sets the tone for Justice League as DC’s flagship title throughout the New 52.
4) Animal Man & Swamp Thing: Rotworld
Two of the most exciting New 52 launches came from books that had otherwise peaked in the mid-80’s and early 90’s respectively. Swamp Thing launched with a creative team of Scott Snyder and Yannick Paquette, while Animal Man launched behind the vision of Jeff Lemire and Steve Pagh. Both series captured the best parts of horror comics before tying together in the Rotworld crossover.
5) Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman
I’ve gathered that if you’re a DC reader coming to New 52 Wonder Woman with expectations and the baggage of the character’s near 80 year long history, the Azzarello and Chiang run may seem ruinous. For me, as a new Wonder Woman fan collecting ongoing comics for the first time in 2011, Azarello and Chiang’s exploration of Greek Mythology in the DC Universe quickly became one of my favorite books in the New 52.
If nothing else, check out Wonder Woman for Chiang’s depictions of classic Greek figures like Hades and Poseidon. Some of my absolute favorite art in the entire New 52!
6) Batgirl by Gail Simone
The extended Bat-family fared reasonably well during the New 52, with strong opening runs in the likes of Batwoman. It’s Gail Simone’s long run on Batgirl that stands out the most to me, though, rehabilitating Barbara Gordon for a new era of DC Comics.
If you’re a fan of Simone’s time writing Birds of Prey, you already know few writers grasp Batgirl like Simone, and the New 52 run is no exception. Expect much of Simone’s New 52 expansion of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl to influence the DCEU version.
7) Geoff Johns Aquaman through Throne of Atlantis
Justice League: Throne of Atlantis
Assigning Green Lantern, Flash, and Justice League architect Geoff Johns to Aquaman sent a clear message that the New 52 wanted you to take the King of Atlantis seriously. Amazingly, it kind of worked. Sure, Johns uses all the same tricks from his Green Lantern days to fuel Aquaman’s introduction to “The Others,” but if it ain’t broke…
8) Batman by Snyder and Capullo – Court of Owls, Death of the Family, Endgame
If you only have time for one single New 52 series, it should be Batman by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Danny Miki.
In my opinion, this is hands down the best comic of the New 52, and is one of my 50 favorite comic books of all time!
9) Green Lantern – Rise of the 3rd Army, Wrath of the First Lantern
Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army
Green Lantern: Wrath of the First Lantern
10) Batman: Requiem
The set-up for Batman: Requiem comes from Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s Batman Inc, before delivering an emotional gut-punch in Batman and Robin.
Batman Inc. is a bit of an oddity in the New 52 in that the series very clearly carries through from pre-New 52 stories by Morrison. So while you don’t HAVE to have read Grant Morrison’s run on Batman to understand what’s going on in Batman Inc, it will definitely help (and can be an absolute blast if you’re ready for it!).
11) Superman/Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Power Couple
One of the biggest developments in fandom during the New 52 was Superman kissing Wonder Woman in Justice League. Superman and Wonder Woman have had romantic notions on and off throughout DC Comics history, but in the New 52 DC fully went for it. This entry is to inform new readers that, yes, this happened, and yes, the team-up book that came out of it was pretty good!
12) Justice League: Trinity War Through Forever Evil
For those starting with the New 52 fresh, the new universe essentially spiraled out of the conclusion of an event called Flashpoint. In this event, there was a mysterious hooded figure named Pandora who seemed be behind the sudden eruption of The New 52.
At the time of its release, Trinity War was billed as the answer to how The New 52 started, and what Pandora had to do with its creation.
This winds up not really at all being what Trinity War delivered, and instead it works as a prequel vehicle for the substantially more interesting follow-up event, Forever Evil.
There are a whole heckuva lot of big picture universe developments that come of Forever Evil, so if you want to understand the state of the DC Universe after 2013, this is highly recommended reading.
13) Superman: Doomed / Superman: Unchained
Writers Charles Soule and Scott Snyder take on project “Make New 52 Superman interesting!”
14) Batman: Robin Rises
If there was anyone more certain that Robin wouldn’t be gone forever, it was Batman. Robin Rises in the continually strong Batman and Robin.
15) Batman Eternal & Batman & Robin Eternal
Batman Eternal launched as a weekly release comic in the vein of DC’s 2007 52, behind the Batman braintrust of Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and many others. Eternal never reaches the heights of 07’s 52, but it’s well worth a read, and has some surprisingly influential direction for Batman comics moving forward.
16) New 52: Future’s End
Future’s End rarely pays off the way you want it to, but this mega DC event occasionally offers glimpses of brilliance in its representation of the future of the DCU. Or I’m just a sucker for anything involving Batman Beyond, either way.
Following the events of Forever Evil, Dick Grayson takes on a new role as a secret superspy in the comic by Tom King, Tim Seely and Mikel Janin.
Grayson actually explains a lot of Nightwing’s backstory, so don’t worry if you’re less familiar with Dick’s time as Robin and Nightwing in the DC Universe. The full run is one of my favorite entries in the New 52.
18) Batgirl of Burnside / Black Canary
Batgirl Vol. 1: Batgirl of Burnside
For all intents and purposes, Batgirl of Burnside reboots Barbara Gordon within New 52 continuity to fit her into a younger, hipper, collegiate life. This will irk readers more familiar with the character’s growth, but for many it’s a great introduction to Batgirl, and a side of life not often seen in DC’s more traditional superhero line.
Black Canary takes similar direction, crafting Dinah Lance as the punk rock lead singer she was always meant to be.
19) Green Lantern/New Gods: Godhead
Green Lantern/New Gods: Godhead
20) Gotham Academy
Gotham Academy quickly became one of my favorite comics to hand new comic book readers, with an all ages vibe great for anyone who might perk up at “It’s like if Harry Potter, Batman and Glee had a baby.”
Tom King and Tim Seely deserve a lot of credit for transforming the one-time Wildstorm superstar Midnighter into a bonafide scene-stealer in the pages of Grayson. Steve Orlando takes that momentum and throws down a Lebron-style tomahawk at full speed (Kevin Love outlet included for maximum gorgeousness).
Midnighter is simultaneously one of the best examples of queer representation in comic books this decade, and one of the New 52’s best comics.
In my reading order for DC’s 2015 event, I compared the core event to Spinal Tap’s worst album.
While I stand by that claim (the core event issues suck), the tie-ins to Convergence, and the outcome are both interesting and important for the DCU as a whole. This is where the groundwork for DC Rebirth begins, and can help new readers get a feel for both DC’s past and where the publisher was heading.
23) The Omega Men
Tom King’s and Barnaby Bagenda’s Omega Men does not feel like a New 52 book, despite its publication placement within the general New 52 timeframe. Omega Men stands alone, quickly establishing itself as both the most interesting Kyle Rayner comic in over 15 years, and an instant classic.
While you don’t need Omega Men to understand any piece of the New 52, if you’re going to read any second comic behind Snyder and Capullo’s Batman, this is the one you want.
24) Robin War
At this point, DC’s had more Robins than Christopher. Bringing them alltogether to fight the original New 52 Bat-family threat (The Court of Owls) is a great idea, and a surprisingly effective thread through Grayson, We Are Robin, and more.
25) Justice League: Darkseid War
Justice League Vol. 7: Darkseid War
Justice League: Darkseid War – Power of the Gods
Justice League Vol. 8: Darkseid War Part 2
The New 52 Justice League came together in order to prevent a Darkseid invasion of Earth, so it’s only appropriate that the conclusion comes in the form of the Darkseid War.
Geoff John’s concluding issue answers ties together Origin, Forever Evil, and the New 52 at large, plus we get to see his version of The New Gods.
From there it’s on to DC Rebirth! You can continue enjoying DC Comics with Comic Book Herald’s complete DC Rebirth reading order.
Been working my way through the New 52. Using the fast track as a starting point but also filling in more details using the main reading order. Nice work on this Dave.
I’ll say that I am enjoying the New 52. Lots of great stuff. Action Comics by Morrison was a bit of a slog. Sometimes Grant just tries too hard. Wonder Woman and Aquaman were great. With both I just could not stop at Vol 1. Went on to the second volume if each and will be doing the thirds as they come up in order. Anyone reading the New 52 really should look at the Earth 2 stuff. At least the first volumes so far have been great.
Still making my way through the New 52, and want to throw a few thoughts out there in case anyone is interested:
Green Lantern Rise of Third Army and Wrath of First Lantern is worth the effort.
Batwoman was unreadable.
Catwoman starts well, but by Vol 3 is unreadable.
Flash Vol 1 to 3 have been great. Not earth shattering, but nice quick fun reads.
Earth 2 and Worlds Finest (through Vol 4) continue to be must reads in my book.
I gave up on Batman Inc. about three issues in.
Superman Unchained was good.
Could not put down Green Arrow Vol 4 and 5.
Heading into Trinity War, will let you know.
Read through a bunch of Lantern books, including Green Lantern Corps: Rebuild, Green Lantern Corps: Uprising, Green Lantern:Dark Days and Green Lantern: Lights Out. Not as good as the earlier Geoff Jones period, but all were good read, decent art and a story that flowed well and was easy to follow.
Flash continues to be great. Both Gorilla Warfare and Reverse are a lot of fun. Great art and good stories.
Birds of Prey is a no go. As were Action Comics 19-25. Just poor. Art was fine, but stories are hard to follow and difficult to get into.
Then went through Trinity War. As a lead in for Forever Evil it is key, but not the greatest overall. I find that Justice League Dark is the weak link.
Half-way through Forever Evil and it is much better than Trinity, but still Dark is the weak link.
Just wanted to check in and add a few more comments in case any Herald fans are looking at New 52…
Forever Evil was the best of New 52 so far, and the follow up, Injustice League, was pretty good.
After that I can also highly recommend The Flash Vol 5 and 6 and Green Arrow Vol 6. I think, apart from Justice League in general, one of the best things in the New 52 was the Flash. Especially Vol 6, Out of Time. Well written and easy to get into.
Earth 2 and Worlds Finest Vols 5 are a close third for best of New 52. Hard to put down and always leave me wanting more. Unfortunately Vols 6 had shake ups in creative teams and main characters and really went down hill fast.
Justice League United is best skipped. And I’d say the same for Green Lantern Vol 5: Test of Wills. It has a lot of the same story that was covered in Lights out and Uprising.
Action Comics Vol 5 is great. I love Superman, always have, but with the wrong writer he comes across as lame (I don’t like to badmouth anyone, but if you see any written by Lobdell, just give it a pass). The Action Comic led into Superman Doomed, which was just ok. It went on too long and was very disjointed.
Then I got into some Batman, and I was really let down. I read all through Batman and Robin Vol 6 and 7, and it was a quick and easy read, but in my opinion this is not Batman. It looks like Batman, and a lot of the tropes are there, but the Batman I know would not go of the rails like that to resurrect anyone.
Batman Eternal was pretty good, but suffers from mixing and matching artists and story threads. Hard to follow in general and uneven. Better that Batman and Robin, but still not great.
All in all this section of the New 52 had me looking elsewhere for better reads. I had been looking forward to Batman Vol 6 (Graveyard Shit by Snyder and Capullo), but the weakness of Eternal and the poorly executed Robin Rises left me unsure of any Batman. I was also looking forward to Worlds End and Futures End, but the weakness of the final story arches in Worlds Finest and Earth 2 left me wondering if I wanted to invest that much effort into two large stories
There is a lot of New 52 that I plan to get to, but I am taking a break, catching up on Star Wars comics and maybe a novel or two. Maybe in the new year…
New Year and so back in the saddle on the New 52. As I said before, if anyone is interested here are a few thoughts.
I jumped right back in after disappointing stuff from Batman and Earth 2:
Batman Vol. 6 Graveyard Shift was a mixed bag. Being a compilation of Snyder’s Batman stuff that falls outside of the events it suffers from a lack of cohesion, but it is good in that these are mostly self contained stories. Detective Vol 6 Icarus was not really worth the time.
Earth 2 Worlds End was a major disappointment. I ended up flipping through most of it as it was hard to follow, lacked unifying themes and was badly written at that. It really is a shame, as the Earth 2 books were fantastic right up to the end of Vols 5. Generally I judge a comic on how much I want to see what happens next versus how much I want to see how it ends. In this case I did not have any compunction to see what happens next, and in the end I did not care how it ended.
Green Lantern / New Gods: Godhead, on the other hand, was a compelling read. I zipped through 400 odd pages in a blast. Well plotted out and each issue had me wanting to know what happens next.
My bad experience with Worlds End left me doubting if I wanted to get into Furtures End. But the quality of Godhead gave me hope. Started to dive into it last night. Good start. 5 issues in and looking forward to more.
I am nearing the end of New 52, and I think at this point it suffers from two things: too many major crossovers and too much Batman. Doomed, Worlds End, Futures End, Godhead and soon Convergence. Joker: Endgame (Batman and Crossover), Grayson (which is very good), Eternal, Detective, and soon Robin War (Batman and Crossover).
There is so much to read, so I have used the fast track here as a guide, and then branched out a bit to cover the major events, but in general I have liked a lot of the stuff that is more self contained. Green Arrow, Flash, Aquaman, etc. I am going to read the next major events, but I am going to try out a few other smaller books that come in at this stage and see if there are any gems. Looking at Deathstroke, Omega Men, Legion of Superheros, Teen Titans and maybe Gotham Academy (oh no, more Batman).
Continuing with my public service, I have gone through some more New 52 if you want to go beyond the fasttrack, but are not willing to go whole hog:
After the huge cross-overs of Godhead and Futures End I went for a few self contained books.
Futures End was a decent story, even if it did not seem to actually “End”. Still, all in all, a good read.
After that I went for Teen Titans: Blinded by the Light, and I enjoyed it. The story was not just a rehash of old Titans stuff, new characters and a an interesting set up for future stuff. Well drawn over all, if a little uneven.
I also read through Deathstroke Vols 1 and 2. And they were ok. If you are a fan of this type of thing, probably pretty good. I am tired of the expert killer types. The art is good, but the writing could use a little something.
Gotham Academy was better than expected. I felt like I was dropped in the middle of something, and I looked around to see if anything tied in, but no luck. It is a fun read, nonetheless, and well-paced out with good art.
Supermen: The Men of Tomorrow really was the highlight. I read through it in one sitting. Romita art on top of a Johns story. I like how it brings Supes back to familiar territory, but does not just go for a straightforward enemy. Well written. Definitely one of the best of the New 52. If you only read one Superman story in the New 52, this should be it.
Going into Batman: Endgame and then Convergence (wish me luck) this week.
Claude Drolet says
Ok, Batman:Endgame was pretty good. I still feel that the Snyder Batman isn’t as good as everyone says it is, but still a good read. I read the trade which seems to be missing some key story points. Maybe that is why it does not click for me.
I then tried Convergence. I really did. I actually got 38 issues into it when I came to the conclusion that I had no interest in finding out what happens next. I actually had that feeling around issue 2, but tried to give it a chance. There really is no point to it. Each “story” is just 2 issues of weak setup of characters that no cares about then inconclusive fight that no one cares about. Not much point in reading these. Might as well go back and read two random issues of the original source material.
I made the mistake of going to Multiversity after Convergence. Sorry Grant, had I not read the former, I might have given the latter a try. No go. Too much alternative time line stuff for one person at that time.
Onward to Justice League 3000! And holy moly, guess what? Another alternative time line! What fun! Being a big fan of these writers from way back (I have their original Justice League books from the 80s), and the art was compelling so I powered through. It is ok, but just one note: try to include at least one character that the reader will care about. I will not be reading any more of the 3000 books.
Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 was better. I liked it and may go forward with the next ones. I’ve always been curious about the legion, but have only read 60s and 70s stuff with Superboy ( I admit I have never read the Great Darkness). The art is good, the characters are cool, if a little too many. And the story works.
The Flash Vol 8 is the best of the bunch. Of all the new things I have tried with the New 52 I am torn between which is best, Flash or Green Lantern. I think the one thing about Flash is anyone can read it. One book, all the way through. No mega crossovers, no companion books. Easy and fun to get into.
I was just starting to move on to Omega Men (been looking forward to this one every since I first read Dave talking about it and Tom King here) but one issue in and I got distracted…
Last night my 9 year old son asked me for a movie to watch. We tossed around a few ideas, and came down to his never having seen the Raimi Spider-man movies. So I pulled up the fist for him, and I was quickly pulled in to it too. Loved it all over again. So right away I wanted to read me some Spidey.
Some good Spidey.
But frankly? I’ve read pretty much every ASM up to the end of Superior Spider-Man, and most every other PPSSM, Web, Spectacular, etc. And I am a little old school, so Slott does not do it for me. Too big, too many events, too much “TOO MUCH”. So I was about to re-read Blue, when I came across the “Amazing Spider-Man Reading Order (Modern Marvel Era)” and read good things about the back to basics Zdarsky PPSSM. And suddenly I am reading modern Spider-Man again.
I may get back to the New 52 after I have a good dose of Spider-man,
I did not realize how I have been at the New 52, my first post here was in May 2018. I have finally gotten through the whole thing. (I did a Marvel summer, read 2019 Spider-man, then jumped back and did post Civil War through Age of Heroes)
For the ending of New 52 I have a few recommendations and thoughts:
Grayson remains strong up to (but not through) the Robin War. Frankly, Robin War is another useless crossover. I’d skip. Read Grayson up to Vol. 4 and let it go.
Batman Vol 9 and 10 are almost worth it. 9 is pretty good, 10 only includes one Snyder book, so just search out issue 51 and skip the collected book.
I got through Darkseid War, but just barely. Frankly, Justice League started out as one of the best New 52. Really, Geoff Jones won over a new fan with the first 20 odd issues, but it slowly went downhill from there as it lost focus and ends with a mega crossover type story that was a letdown. I had been looking forward to this for just about the whole run, as it seemed the whole thing was building up to Darkseid, but he did not nail the landing.
Action Comics Vol 9 is a big jumble of middle issues. The collect volume by itself is virtually unreadable.
Luckily the best came last:
Superman: American Alien is a wonderful read. Well written and fun. I am not one for rehashing Superman’s origin every year, but this actually gave us some new stuff. Good art and great story. Highly recommended. Highly. Could not put it down.
Titans Hunt was a little weird, dropping the reader into a story that seemed disconnected to the New 52 in general, but it was great. For old school Titans fans it is a must. Ties into their very first adventure way back in Brave and the Bold 54 and the modern Grayson stuff.
Superman: Lois and Clark is another home run. Helps bridge the pre 52 to the New 52, but has a great angle. Dan Jurgens knows how to write Superman. Nuff said.
Superman: The Final Days of Superman is somewhat disjointed, and the quality goes up and down from chapter to chapter, but after the previous three great books, I was compelled to read it through and enjoyed it.
I was fatigued with DC up until the last few reads, and now I may just jump right in to Rebirth.
Love this updates, Claude 🙂 I had the same experience as you with Darkseid War. I feel like there’s still potential in there somewhere!
You seem to have missed a couple of links. Death of the Family, Endgame and the Black Canary portion of the Batgirl reboot.
You are absolutely amazing. Thank you very much !
btw. Maybe you could also create post Secret Wars fast track guide ? Marvel Legacy incoming.
Thanks again for this guide ! AMAZING.