In April 1985, DC Comics kicked off the most momentous event in their shared universe’s modern history. Comics superstars Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s Crisis on Infinite Earths delivered cosmic ramifications that rippled across DC’s Multiverse and remain to this day. By the time the twelfth issue concluded the event in March 1986, DC Comics was irrevocably split into a history pre and post-Crisis.
For best of DC Comics list-making purposes, this is both essential to acknowledge, and frankly a relief! While Comic Book Herald has guides covering DC’s earlier years starting with Action Comics #1, it’s useful to focus in on the “Post-Crisis” landscape of the modern DC Universe.
A few caveats about the list:
- Although the books are numbered, this is not a rank! The books are listed in general chronology or by era, so readers could proceed from the first entry through to the 100th and move through time from 1986 to present day. If you want to see where these comics are ranked, check out the best comics of all time list!
- There’s definitely a certain bias towards addressing and acknowledging the “bigger” stories that have become a part of DC canon. CBH writers may have wildly varying opinions about these entries (for example, The Killing Joke, Identity Crisis or Batman: Hush), but they’ll still get an argument made in their favor on this list.
- The list does not include DC-owned publishing lines like Vertigo, Milestone, or Wildstorm, unless the comics are deliberately set in the shared DC superhero universe.
- Any weird picks are definitely the work of CBH editor-in-chief Dave, so please direct your befuddled confusion that way! And definitely provide some of your own favorites for consideration!
Otherwise, I think “the best DC Comics of the modern era!” is pretty self-explanatory. Check out the lists below, and give some great stories a read!
1) Swamp Thing
Creators: Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, John Totleben
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Issues: Swamp Thing #20 to #64
Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing is the perfect encapsulation of a creative team being given the opportunity to do anything and everything they want with a title and pushing that opportunity to its extreme. In the hands of Moore and artists like John Totleben and Stephen Bissette, with editor Karen Berger protecting their vision and in the process defanging the Comics Code Authority and paving the way for Vertigo Comics, Swamp Thing became fertile ground for Moore’s imagination. From the groundbreaking, redefining “Anatomy Lesson” to the interspecies love of “Rite of Spring” to the psychedelic space journey of its final issues, Moore’s time on Swamp Thing is remarkable for the amount of depth it gave to its characters and massive variety of themes it explored.
It also dared to publish stories that made mainstream readers look at DC Comics in a new light through its heavily philosophical approach and grotesque body horror. It’s no small exaggeration to say that Moore’s Swamp Thing became a foundational text for generations to follow. And it shows just how much could be done with an unloved character when a creator has a passion for comics and a willingness to explore both heady and difficult themes through their work. — Matt Draper
2) Batman: Year One
Creators: Frank Miller, David Mazzuchelli
Issues: Batman #404-407
Every legend has to start somewhere, even the Batman. However, Batman: Year One acts as not only an insight to Batman’s first year, but for Detective Jim Gordon as well. The now inescapable storyline chronicles the ups and downs of learning to work in Gotham City. For Bruce Wayne, it’s trying to understand how best to go about his mission. Applying theatricality and understanding the tools necessary to strike fear in the hearts of the wicked. While from Gordon’s point of view, his first year revolves around navigating the crooked underbelly of the Gotham Police Department. The pair mirror each other well in a fantastic tale that is certainly worth its legacy. — Mikayla Laird
3) Superman Man of Steel
Creators: John Byrne, Dick Giordano
Issues: Man of Steel #1 to #6
Man of Steel is perhaps Superman in his purest form. Stripping Superman of some of the more outlandish powers of the Silver Age, and reinventing the character, in a simpler, modern era, Man of Steel sees Clark Kent taken back to his roots, learning his place in his world. We see Clark gaining his costume, particularly as a tribute to both sets of parents, moving to Metropolis and meeting Batman. Man of Steel is arguably the quintessential Superman origin story, and the reinvention of the world around him, especially in the form of Lois Lane and Lex Luthor. For modern day Superman fans, this is your point of origin. — Mikayla Laird
4) George Perez Wonder Woman
Creators: George Perez
Issues: Wonder Woman #1 to #62, War of the Gods
George Perez’s reboot of Wonder Woman does something all-too-rare in superhero comics: uses the actions of its characters and worldbuilding to express and explore powerful themes, rather than simply wallpapering a stock superhero story with ultimately hollow thematic signifiers. Diana is explicitly made a feminist, and feminine, rebuttal to the “standard” archetype of superheroics (read: masculine), with love and mercy wielded alongside strength and pragmatism. But this complexity of character doesn’t weigh down a book this well-plotted and paced (not to mention gorgeously pencilled by Perez), which re-establishes Diana’s core connection to Greek mythology while deftly moving us through a riveting reboot of her origin.Compare the first seven issue arc, “Gods & Mortals,” with the 2017 film and see how Perez’s ending profoundly honors Diana as a character more than any “climactic” fistfight ever could. — Zack Deane
5) Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Creators: Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, Lynn Varley
Issues: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1 to #4
As the car goes racing across the track, about to speed out of control, Bruce thinks to himself, “This would be a good death.” It’s been many years since The Batman retired, he’s been gone for long enough that the younger generation believe he’s nothing but a myth. Bruce Wayne continues to live his life, but is still upset with the state of the world. One night, he finds himself back in the Batcave and decides to put the costume on again. However, the return of the Batman also brings with it the return of villains, as well as an untrusting world that isn’t too sure whether or not to trust him again, or even if this is the same person Gotham once knew. — Mikayla Laird
Creators: Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, John Higgins
Issues: Watchmen #1 to #12
Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and John Higgins’ classic masterpiece. Often mischaracterized as deconstructionist, ‘realistic’, or ‘cynical’, Watchmen is so, so much more. It’s a trailblazer for how superhero stories could be told, what was actually possible with them, and how they could be utilized to pose and explore powerful questions. Watchmen is a guidebook on how to use formalism to enhance your story, and to tell stories in fresh new ways, whether it be through prose backmatter, the 9-panel grid, or cutting across genres, and coloring.
It’s a book about humanity, and how we are all we have, and how even in the face of absolute Armageddon, we can be kind and decent to one another. We’re all we have, so we have to watch out for one another, eh? That’s Watchmen. So read, and watch, for there are masters at work here. — Ritesh Babu
7) “For the Man Who Has Everything
Creators: Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, Tom Ziuko
Issues: Superman Annual #11 (1985)
While this list is predominantly full of full graphic novels and lengthy runs, I have to acknowledge some of Moore’s smaller work across the DC Universe, and there aren’t many that stick with me more than “For the Man Who Has Everything.” Alongside Watchmen collaborator Dave Gibbons, Moore and team weave a perfect one and done story about Mongul invading the Fortress of Solitude and using the “Black Mercy” to make Superman think he has everything he ever wanted back home on Krypton. The issue was later translated in the 2000’s animated Justice League Unlimited and feels as timeless as ever. — Dave
8) Justice League International
Creators: JM Dematteis, Keith Giffen, Kevin MaGuire
Issues: Justice League #1 to #6, Justice League International #7 to #25, Justice League America #26 to #30, Justice League Europe #1 to #6
DeMatteis, Giffen and MaGuire’s post-Crisis Justice League remains a breath of fresh air, a gorgeous influx of cartoon whimsy in the heart of “Comics aren’t just for kids anymore!” fever. It’s also a miracle this book even happened, with an approach to Justice League so tonally inconsistent with historic expectations the series was retitled to Justice League International (and the eventual spinoff Justice League Europe) within six issues. It’s easy to reduce the run to the comedic tenor and “One Punch!” but JLI is also the series that made Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Fire, Ice, Guy Gardner, Captain Atom and a host of others (including the rejuvenation of Scott Free and Big Barda!) forever matter to DC fans. — Dave
9) Cosmic Odyssey
Creators: Jim Starlin, Mike Mignola, Carlos Garzon, Steve Oliff
Issues: Cosmic Odyssey #1 to #4
Independently, Jim Starlin and Mike Mignola are some of my favorite comic book creators of all time, with Starlin’s Marvel Cosmic work of the 70’s and early 90’s perfecting the framework that gave the world Thanos, and Mignola’s Hellboy universe standing out as one of the best achievements in comics. Before Hellboy and Infinity Gauntlet, the creators teamed up for 1988’s Cosmic Odyssey, a miniseries/event that finds Darkseid seeking the aid of Earth’s heroes and New Genesis. Whereas Legends worked to re-establish the presence of Kirby’s Darkseid as a post-Crisis DCU big bad, Cosmic Odyssey actually delivers a 4th World crossover worthy of the legacy. — Dave
10) The Question (O’Neil, Cowan)
Creators: Denny O’Neil, Denys Cowan, Rick Magyar
Issues: The Question #1 to #36
This masterpiece of a series resurrects the faceless vigilante and sets him in search of himself. But that’s not its only fantastic metaphor, as the book nakedly captured famous Bat-Editor Denny O’Neil’s own recovery from drugs and alcohol in real-time. This lends it both sympathy and power as both Sage and O’Neil search for “the wisdom to tell the difference” in a world of things they cannot change. O’Neil and The Question rewrite concepts like justice, fairness, drive, and survival, all of which become big influences on Miller’s Batman, Brubaker’s Cap/Winter Soldier, and arguably Moore’s Watchmen. And Cowan’s pencils and Magyar’s inks are superb; part film, part fashion shoot (the panels! the poses!), influencing everyone from Miller to Liefeld to Mack. — John Galati
11) Suicide Squad
Creators: John Ostrander, Luke McDonnell, Kim Yale
Issues: Suicide Squad #1 to #66
Trying to imagine the DC Universe without the Suicide Squad is nearly impossible, but pre-Crisis Task Force X was a forgotten concept, until John Ostrander, Luke McDonnell and Kim Yale launched this modern version that resonates today. Suicide Squad is easily one of the best superhero concepts to arise from this era of DC Comics, putting assorted imprisoned DC supervillains to use as a Black Ops arm of the US government (Yep, it’s The Dirty Dozen for capes). In Squad, Amanda Waller, Floyd Lawton (Deadshot), Boomerang and many more became unforgettable central pillars of the DC Universe at large. As a whole, the series is remarkably effective at exploring the psychology of the squad, while simultaneously throwing them into political/global turmoil that frequently results in failed missions and “terminated” members. It’s a testament to the work of everyone involved that the killer concept has never been this good since. — Dave
12) Deadshot: Beginnings
Creators: John Ostrander, Kim Yale, Luke McDonnell
Issues: Deadshot #1 to #4
The Suicide Squad, well, squad (#squadsquad) double down on their efforts to make Floyd Lawton the most complex psyche in the series (at least this side of Amanda Waller), in a solo story with some truly surprising twists. In theory, you could easily lump this in with the larger Suicide Squad run and the late 80’s exploration of the underbelly of crime in the DC Universe. These four issues stand out on their own, though, both as essential facets to making Deadshot an interesting villain/anti-hero, and frankly as a testament to just how bleak late 80’s DC could get. — Dave
13) Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters / Mike Grell Green Arrow
Creators: Mike Grell
Issues: Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters #1 to #3
While the transformation begins with Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow in the early 70’s, the post-Crisis maturation of Oliver Queen is all Mike Grell, starting with the 3 issue Longbow Hunters miniseries and on into the long running ongoing series that began in 1988. It’s an oversimplification, but Grell’s Green Arrow is closer to Marvel’s Punisher with a bow and arrow than the legacy of trick arrows and that Robin Hood get-up would ever have you believe. Much like The Killing Joke, critical re-examination of the work rightly addresses the handling of sexual violence and gender dynamics, so it’s also worth acknowledging the deep flaws at the root of the reinvention as you explore. — Dave
14) Batman: The Killing Joke
Creators: Alan Moore, Brian Bolland
One bad day can change the course of your life. This is the philosophy of The Joker, once again anointed here as Batman’s greatest enemy. It’s a philosophy that both Batman and The Joker can connect to, as The Killing Joke explores brilliantly. After escaping Arkham Asylum, the Joker plans to put his theory into action, shooting Barbara Gordon through the spine, and kidnapping Commissioner Gordon. Interspliced with perhaps Joker’s most well-known origin story, Gordon is brutally tortured by the Joker’s henchmen, while Batman races against time to save him. The stunning art and strong writing make for a tale that stays with the reader long after the final page. — Mikayla Laird
Creators: Tim Truman
Issues: Hawkworld #1 to #3
There’s old comics you read, which feel dated. They’re a struggle, they’re a chore. Then you read old comics that feel like they could be published tomorrow. They’re works that last and work so well, even decades later. Tim Truman’s seminal Hawkworld mini-series is that brand of storytelling. It’s the rare Post-TDKR and Watchmen text that actually understands the lessons of those works. It’s the reboot of Hawkman that feels like a prestige HBO series, and it’s a big, political story about a man of privilege, a conservative cop, who realizes how broken the system he’s a part of is, and must cope with the horror of that.
Fiercely contemporary, absolutely unyielding, and devastatingly honest in its observations, it’s a work that skewers the imperialism of Thanagar, which serves as a mirror for examinations of US imperialism. The Hawkworld? It isn’t in space, it’s down here on earth, everywhere around us. — Ritesh Babu
16) Legion of Super-Heroes: Five Years Later
Creators: Keith Giffen, Mary Bierbaum, Tom Bierbaum, Al Gordon
Issues: Adventures of Superman #478, Legion of Super-Heroes (1989) #1-39, Who’s Who #1-11, #13, #14, #16, Timber Wolf #1-5, and Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #1-3
At this point, there are few things in Big 2 comics that quite get my attention like massive fan-favorite runs that somehow fall outside the collective consensus canon. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about comics, but I live for those moments when somebody says “Have you read 5YL?” and I have no idea what they’re talking about!
This was absolutely the case with the Keith Giffen written and plotted 1989 Legion of Super-Heroes relaunch, the divisive “Five Years Later” timeline. Conceptually, 5YL is brilliant, throwing readers into the deep end of Legion lore, five years (sing it with me David Bowie style, “FIVE YEARS!!!”) after the end of the “Magic Wars,” and with the perpetually teenage Legion suddenly grown up and often struggling. It’s not the Legion your pops grew up with in the Silver Age, and it’s not even the celebrated Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen Legion from a few years prior. Ultimately, that’s the point.– Dave
17) Batman: Arkham Asylum
Creators: Grant Morrison, Dave McKean
Even with Morrison’s full script and numerous rereads, Arkham Asylum is borderline incomprehensible. Jungian psychology overlaid on geometric symbolism underlined with the jumbled and dark art of Dave McKean makes “A Serious House on Serious Earth” a challenging read for anyone. Combine that with a Batman who feels completely weak and ineffectual and it becomes obvious from the start that Morrison is more interested in Batman’s mental state than his actions. Arkham Asylum came out in the wake of the trail-blazing “The Dark Knight Returns” and “The Killing Joke,” which paved the wave for new takes on Batman. But Morrison’s work is the rejection of those stories and their imitators’ focus on realism in favor of maddening symbolism. And its success rocketed Morrison to superstardom.
It’s a disturbing piece of symbolic existential horror that terrifies the reader by letting our imaginations run wild as we probe the terrors lurking within the subconscious mind. Morrison would go on to write more literal, action-oriented Batman stories that probe the The Dark Knight’s ego, but Arkham Asylum feels like Morrison grabbing a live wire and channeling that energy right into the reader. You can’t help but feel both empowered and repulsed by it. — Matt Draper
18) Doctor Fate (88 to 92)
Creators: JM Dematteis, Shawn McManus, Mark McKenna
Issues: Doctor Fate #1 to #24
The Dematteis, MacManus, McKenna era of the new Doctor Fate is easily among the most underrated selections on this entire list, and for my money the most underrated. None of these comics are even collected by DC! It’s far from a perfect run, but following DeMatteis and Keith Giffen’s Doctor Fate miniseries resolving the fate of Kent Nelson (well, sorta), Fate becomes a supernatural hero inhabited by two distinct personalities, one male and childlike, and one female. The series quickly explores the Lords of Chaos and Order, interjecting I, Vampire into the proceedings, and maintaining a madcap sense of humor throughout it all. — Dave
19) Doom Patrol
Creators: Grant Morrison, Richard Case
Issues: Doom Patrol #19 to #63
The World’s Strangest Heroes. They’re a lively bunch, and a wonderful concept, but after their initial Silver Age run ended, The Doom Patrol spent an absurd amount of time not being what their motto promised. They were fairly standard superheroes, in a book that reflected that.
Enter: Grant Morrison, Richard Case, and John Workman. The now legendary creative team reshaped that entire world, pushing the central concept to its absolute limits, and taking it to realms it had never been. A spiritual successor to Gerber’s Defenders, in a Claremont X-world, Morrison’s vision was a hurricane of neverending big ideas, influenced by everything from Dadaism to experimental European filmmaking. By the time it was over, one thing was clear: This was the defining run, now and forever. As the concept’s creator Arnold Drake put it, this is the one run that understood the concept and fulfilled its intentions best, even better than its own creator. — Ritesh Babu
20) Animal Man by Grant Morrison
Creators: Grant Morrison, Chas Truog, Tom Grummett
Issues: Animal Man #1 to #26
Grant Morrison has made an entire career out of doing the impossible. In this case, starting with a 60s c-list superhero who borrows “powers” from animals (?!). A character that Carmine Infantino probably banged out before lunch. Morrison dusts him off, gives him a modern family and a very modern cause. And he makes them live on the lid of a jack-in-the-box. The story is covered by a goofy Saturday morning cartoon. But inside of that is a warhead of philosophy and emotion, just waiting for its musical queue. That’s impressive all by itself. But the fact the book respects its audience enough to ask them to not only think but search inside themselves? Like I said, impossible. — John Galati
21) Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight, New Dawn
Creators: Ron Marz, Darryl Banks
Issues: Green Lantern (Vol 3) #48 to #55
When Superman “died,” Hal Jordan took on his cosmic foes. But when Superman returned, the threat to Jordan remained. This is the story of how Jordan failed to save his home, Coast City, and how Superman and the universe failed Jordan again and again. Marz, Willingham, Haynes, and co, do an astounding job of capturing the grief and terror of a Green Lantern in mourning. But they also capture something else: the ending, where only a single Guardian is left alive with a single ring. The ring sets out to find the last champion left in the universe: a bust-out artist who would become the most powerful Lantern of all. That arc from tragedy to comedy is difficult but rewarding, some middle part from the Zero Hour editorial debacle! — John Galati
22) Mark Waid’s Flash
Creators: Mark Waid, Greg Larocque
Issues: The Flash #62 to #128
There’s normal runs, and then there’s Chase-The-Dragon runs. Runs so definitive and defining, they overshadow, subsume and become almost the entirety of a franchise, with almost everything after being in response, or in pursuit of it. There is almost no way to separate the work from the fabric of the fiction, it’s seeped in deep and far too ingrained now. That’s Mark Waid’s Flash. From Speed Forces, Flash Families, Reverse Flashes to legendary legacies, this run is what made the character for not just a generation, but every generation after.
Waid took John Broome and Carmine Infantino’s vibrant creation, who’d rusted to become a dull conservative, and put new life, and genuine heart into him. A whole slew of disparate characters found thematic unity under his pen, with legacy and family being essential. Waid did the impossible in Big Two comics: He made the successor surpass the mentor.
Wally West with The Flash Family, was The Flash. — Ritesh Babu
23) JSA the Golden Age
Creators: James Robinson, Paul Smith
Issues: The Golden Age #1 to #4
In truth, I’ve never understood JSA-heads. Unless you’re literally my dad (in which case, thanks for everything pops!) the thrills of the Golden Age generation are a wonderful concept and legacy in the DC Universe that I only occasionally want to focus on directly. Perhaps that’s why the Watchmen’s Minutemen meets Wild Cards Book One approach of Robinson and Smith’s JSA: The Golden Age resonates most. In this alternate post World War II America, the Justice Society of America has largely hung up the tights just in time for McCarthyism and the House of Unamerican Activities Committee. For his part, Robinson would go on to greater heights exploring legacy in the DC Universe in the pages of Starman, but “The Golden Age” is a notable progression getting there. — Dave
24) Batman: Knightfall
Creators: Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant
Issues: Batman: Vengeance of Bane Special #1, Batman #491-500, Detective Comics #659-666, Showcase ’93 #7-8 and Batman: Shadow of the Bat #16-18
The all-star talent behind this had insanely ambitious goals. “The Jailbreak at Arkham” act is a perfect (re)introduction to the title, yet the full arc concludes six years of a “breaking the Bat” narrative that stretches from Death in the Family to Death of Superman. (In fact, Knightfall improves/fixes the year-old DoS story concept itself.) But most shocking of all: it’s a major bat-event with very little Joker. Instead, Knightfall takes Bane—then the newest bat-villain—to the top slot, making him Kraven to Batman’s Spider-Man; a multi-threat, multi-avenue predator who can shake their foe to the absolute core. You can hear echoes of Knightfall in everything from Hush to Winter Soldier. Now if we could just undo Schumacher’s Trenchcoat Bane… — John Galati
25) The Death and Rebirth of Superman
Creators: Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern, John Bogdanove, Tom Grummett, Jackson Guice, more
Issues: Superman: The Man of Steel #18-19, Justice League America #69, Superman #74-75, Adventures of Superman #497, and Action Comics #684
The event that shocked the world, can the Man of Steel ever truly be killed in battle? The year long event saw not only the death of Superman at the hands of Doomsday, but the mystery of the 4 new Supermen. Each claiming to be the successor to the Superman title. Each of the four Supermen, Superboy, Steel, Cyborg Superman and the Eradicator, highlight an aspect of Superman, but as the story goes on, it’s clear that there is no true replacement for Superman. The question now becomes, how do you resurrect the man who shouldn’t have died in the first place? — Mikayla Laird
26) Batman: The Long Halloween + Dark Victory
Creators: Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale
Issues: The Long Halloween #0 to #13, Dark Victory #0 to #13
The creative team of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale have basically crafted a masterpiece every time they’ve worked together, but they may be most directly tied to their two titanic Batman miniseries. “The Long Halloween” serves as a replacement Year Two for The Dark Knight, tying up loose ends from Frank Miller’s “Year One” while transitioning Gotham from a gangster’s paradise to a freakish playground. “Dark Victory” wraps up the lingering ideas of “Halloween” while reversing that first story’s bleak musings on Batman by providing a new origin for Dick Grayson’s Robin. Each works as a compelling, cartoonishly gothic mystery that mentally and emotionally challenges Batman while also working as a far-better blockbuster comic than Loeb’s later, also villain-stuffed, “Hush.”
Best of all, both of these stories serve as compelling narratives for Harvey Dent, both before and after his transformation into Two-Face. When done right, Dent is a tragic figure that reflects Bruce Wayne’s darkest impulses. By affording Dent with nearly as much narrative real estate as his title hero, the duality of Two-Face makes both “Long Halloween” and “Dark Victory” into stories that can be read for their sheer thrills as well as their ruminations on human psychology. — Matt Draper
27) Flex Mentallo
Creators: Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely
Issues: Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery #1 to #4
The character of Flex Mentallo, Hero of the Beach, is one of many reasons Morrison’s time writing Doom Patrol is among my top 10 favorite comics of all time. There’s something so impossibly comical and powerful about muscle mystery, the ode to Silver Age comic book advertisements, and the ability to flex the Pentagon into a circle. Morrison returned to Flex in 1996 with artist Frank Quitely (in what would become one of comics most celebrated collaborations), and a challenging, meta-fictional and deeply fascinating four issue miniseries. Flex breaks the mold of superhero comics tropes even moreso than Doom Patrol, while simultaneously laying down the philosophy of a unified superhero landscape, with Morrison really leaning into the one million ideas a minute approach to comics that has defined so much of his work since.
Quitely is absolutely a breath of fresh air in the ’96 artistic canon, and all in all Flex Mentallo is a fascinating book for readers well-versed in Morrison-ology. Perhaps the work says it best: “I just wanted to talk about the comics, see? All those sh***y, amazing comics…” — Dave
28) John Constantine: Hellblazer – Dangerous Habits
Creators: Garth Ennis, Jamie Delano, Sean Phillips, Steve Hugh, Dave McKean
Issues: Hellblazer #34 to #46
John Constantine is a great conman and an almost respectable magician. But his real superpower is his ability to go it completely alone. Seeing him grinding out every day, knowing that he’s learned to not even need Superman’s help, that makes audiences believe he can take on both Heaven and Hell. And Garth Ennis turned that strength into a mortal weakness. Seeing Constantine, wearing a teal hospital gown, yellow sodium light, with no one beside him as he looks at an x-ray seems to cut the strings off him. Then again, it also makes him his most dangerous. — John Galati
Creators: James Robinson, Tony Harris, Peter Snejbjerg, Wade Von Grawbadger
Issues: Starman #1 to #81
DC Comics of the 1990’s are uniquely positioned to create, establish and respond to the idea of legacy in an eternal shared story. Throughout the decade we see Kyle Rayner come into his own as Green Lantern, Wally West really become The Flash, Tim Drake become Robin, and as we can all agree, Cyborg Superman and Jean-Paul Valley cementing their claims as World’s Finest (ok, not all legacies are built equally).
My favorite saga of legacy, though, comes from a lesser known franchise, with Starman and The Knight family taking center stage in James Robinson and Tony Harris’ long-running series. The path of Starman taps into so much of what makes the DC Universe a thrilling space, fleshing out the mythical Opal City, seamlessly connecting the tapestry of DC’s history from Justice Society to present day, and making everyone from The Shade to Mist some of the coolest supporting characters in the world. This is Robinson at his absolute best, and Tony Harris’ work is simply some of the finest in contemporary superhero comics. — Dave
Creators: Garth Ennis, John McCrea
Issues: Hitman #1 to #60
Tommy Monaghan is to the Punisher as John Constantine is to Doctor Strange. He’s a smart-mouthed working man, always hard on his luck, trying to figure out how to operate a work/life balance and failing. It’s a fantastic test bed for Ennis’s violent humor. For many, the series apexes with issue 34, Of Thee I Sing (often called “the best Superman story ever.”) And while Ennis does a masterful job of revealing the Man of Steel to be just as unsure and vulnerable as the rest of us, the issue works because of how strong a character Monaghan becomes. The crux of the issue is that when Monaghan tells Superman he’s wrong, we all believe Tommy. — John Galati
31) JLA by Grant Morrison
Creators: Grant Morrison, Howard Porter
Issues: JLA #1 to #41
As much as I love Justice League International, and all its many quirks, JLA by Morrison and Porter is the book that demands DC’s Justice League reflects the absolute core of the universe, with a central lineup revolving around Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash (Wally West), Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), and Martian Manhunter. The quirks will certainly come (the comedic relief of Plastic Man, the surprise inclusion of Huntress), but this is a foundation built to matter. It’s an all time great run, zipping between Martian invasions, Apokoliptan futures, World War III, and everything in between. If you haven’t read a Justice League comic that really worked for you before, it might just mean you haven’t read JLA. — Dave
32) DC One Million
Creators: Grant Morrison, Drew Geraci, various
The Justice League are certainly a staple in the DC universe, but it’s hard to believe that any of its members would expect the League to still exist in the 853rd century. As they are visited by their future counterparts, the Justice League are invited to the future in order to attend a ceremony marking the return of Superman. However, not all is as it seems, as the Justice League are separated across the solar system, as a conspiracy theory begins to unfold. Beyond its primary story, DC One Million also finds itself with a multitude of tie-in stories, fleshing out the future of the DC Universe. — Mikayla Laird
33) Kingdom Come
Creators: Mark Waid, Alex Ross
Don’t let the wanton destruction and copious deaths fool you, Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ “Kingdom Come” is actually a bold strike against the grim and gritty ‘90s. In this dystopian future, the classic heroes of DC Comics have grown old and out of fashion, replaced with lethal vigilantes. But when a retired Superman returns, the clash between young and old may destroy the world. Ross’s hyper realistic paintings are on full display here with bold hero shots and scenes of titanic battles, but it’s Waid’s juxtaposition of the Book of Revelation and meta commentary on the comic book industry of the ‘90s that adds greater weight to a story of idealistic heroes changing and being tempted to fall. Seeing figures like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman come as close as possible to failing the morals that have shaped them for generations and then reembracing the hope that defines them ultimately makes Kingdom Come an inspirational story because of its edge of cynicism.
More than 20 years later, it still feels like DC Comics is living in the future shadow of Kingdom Come, guiding its way and standing as a bold critique against the publisher’s tendency to make its heroes and readers suffer. — Matt Draper
34) Batman: Mad Love
Creators: Paul Dini, Bruce Timm
Issues: Batman Adventures Annual #1-2, Batman Adventures Holiday Special, Adventures In The Dc Universe #3 And Batman Black And White #1
The origin from one of Batman the Animated Series most celebrated episodes, Mad Love shows a dark and disturbing side to the relationship between Harley Quinn and the Joker. Harley is desperate to help the Joker and see him smile, but every time she tries to help, he ends up pushing her away, usually out of a window. The relationship between Harley and Joker is front and centre as the story also acts as an origin story for Harley, reliving the events that put her in this situation. Mad Love is definitive in how it set the tone for Harley and Joker stories moving forward, especially when it comes to Harley’s reimagining within DC Comics. — Mikayla Laird
35) Superman: For All Seasons
Creators: Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale
Issues: Superman For All Seasons #1-4
One of the most important elements to a Superman origin story is how the world reacts to him. In For All Seasons, we see four phases of Superman’s early development, mirroring the four seasons of a year. Each season is narrated by someone close to Clark and provides unique perspectives on his life. The story primarily spans from the time Clark leaves Smallville, to establishing himself in Metropolis as a protector. The way the story reflects the changing seasons makes it unique when it comes to early Superman tales. The brilliant team of Loeb and Sale tell a truly beautiful tale, with some amazing stand out moments that really grounds Clark Kent. — Mikayla Laird
36) Orion by Walt Simonson
Creators: Walt Simonson
Issues: Orion #1 to #25
The influence of Jack Kirby’s 4th World is emminently clear in post-Crisis DC right out of the gates, with Darkseid taking central roles in the likes of Legends or Cosmic Odyssey (not to mention the previously referenced JLA “Rock of Ages”). Still, there’s not a ton of actual New Gods comics worthy of a best-of conversation (Although let me be among the first to nominate John Byrne’s Genesis for a worst-of conversation) until you get to Kirby acolyte and all-time great Walt Simonson’s run on Orion. While it’s not quite as good or all-encompassing as Simonson’s Thor for Marvel, Orion is a gorgeous work that digs deep into both the life of Darkseid’s son raised on New Genesis, and the mythology of the 4th World. Frankly, a very good “in” to the New Gods for readers newer to DC.– Dave
37) JLA: Earth 2
Creators: Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely
What happens when you must revamp classic Gardner Fox Justice League concepts in a Post-Crisis world without a multiverse? Well, this.
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s revival of The Crime Syndicate and Earth-3 is one that splices together Gardner Fox notions with John Broome brilliance, to recreate the realm of Earth-3 in The Anti-Matter Universe. Quitely’s very much in his Post-Flex and Pre-All-Star phase, lending the book an odd visual quality, as it explodes with prime 2000s widescreen cinematic flair. It’s a bit weird, a bit creepy, and all in all, becomes the modern bedrock for interpreting both Earth-3 and Anti-Matter, influencing everything that’d come after, whether it be Dwayne McDuffie movies or New 52 reboots.
This is very much the Star Trek Mirror Universe episode of the Morrison Justice League saga. The dark doppelgangers emerge from the Reversoverse, and the stage is set for a classical JL epic spanning a whole host of characters and various realities. — Ritesh Babu
38) Superman: Birthright
Creators: Mark Waid, Leinil Francis Yu
Issues: Superman: Birthright #1-12
The origin of Superman, as told by Mark Waid and Leinil Yu. If All-Star Superman is the revered ideal 12-part conclusion and endpoint for the character, Birthright is the ideal 12-part beginning. It spans everything from his time in Smallville to his establishment of Superman, and just what that actually means. It’s the Post-Byrne rehabilitation of the character which displaces shame for what before with an earnest sincerity that works. It goes so far that it reworks the classic Silver Age Superboy-Lex Luthor friendship and hair loss story into a touching, sweet tale of youth, companionship, and separation.
Whether it be playing Krypton with a grandeur and majesty rarely seen, or centering more on Lara and Ma Kent than the men as most do, Birthright is an emotionally honest, touching update to The Man Of Tomorrow. All that and maybe the best single splash image to sum up who Superman is, ever. It’s all in there. — Ritesh Babu
39) Batgirl/Robin Year One
Creators: Scott Beatty, , Marcos Martin, Javier Pulido, Robert Campanella, Alvaro Lopez, Chuck Dixon
Issues: Robin: Year One #1 to #4, Batgirl: Year One #1 to #9
One of the absolute coolest things about this “Year One” combo platter is the powerhouse artistic might of Javier Pulido on “Robin” and Marcos Martin on “Batgirl.” These are fantastic looking origin flashbacks, in the vein of Miller/Mazzuchelli on Batman: Year One but of course never trying too desperately to emulate those impossible standards. With years of Nightwing under our belt as seasoned DC readers, it’s also fascinating and refreshing to reflect back on Dick Grayson’s earliest days as Batman’s boy wonder, and just what exactly drove him to play the part. Batgirl experty treads similar ground for Barbara Gordon, already in her Oracle role in continuity as the flashbacks were coming out. There’s more of a tragedy at the heart of Batgirl’s “Year One,” knowing what Killing Joke has in wait, but it’s still glorious to watch Marcos Martin and Alvaro Lopez deliver a kick from Babs right into the face of Killer Moth. — Dave
40) Plastic Man
Creators: Kyle Baker
Issues: Plastic Man #1 to #20
Incredibly gifted cartoonist Kyle Baker takes the Golden Age comedy ethos of Plastic Man and transports it into a run unlike anything else DC Comics was producing (or honestly, is producing today!). Plastic Man is Baker’s vision of Eel O’Brien reconciling his past as a criminal, but through the lens of Looney Toons, newspaper strips, and Roger Rabbit. If you’re looking for capital “S” serious comics, keep on skimming, but for pure lighthearted storytelling bliss, check out Plastic Man. — Dave
41) Flash/Green Lantern: Brave and the Bold
Creators: Mark Weid, Barry Kitson, Tom Peyer
Issues: Flash & Green Lantern #1 to #6
Few writers have mined DC’s past to the extent Mark Waid has. Even fewer still have his wild encyclopedic understanding of that world. So fitting then that he tackles the two vital silver age icons handled and established as friends by John Broome in the 60s. A pseudo-successor to his and Kitson’s JLA: Year One, Brave and the Bold goes through the wild, weird history of The Flash and Green Lantern, Barry Allen and Hal Jordan, and mines for the heart amidst all the strange trappings of The Silver Age.
Accessible to newcomers, but reverent towards the old in a way that is pleasing for older readers, the book is, in essence, Waid’s platonic ideal of superhero comics. Fun, quick, earnest and rooted in their history. — Ritesh Babu
42) JLA: Tower of Babel
Creators: Mark Waid, Howard Porter, various
Issues: JLA #43 to #46
The absolute unbeatable machismo of the man dressed like a bit took on new life with Morrison and Porter’s first arc on JLA, where Bruce Wayne stands alone against the White Martian threat and keeps the League together. Writer Mark Waid doubles down on that ethos in “Tower of Babel,” extending the thinking that the man who plans for every contingency would have all manner of weapons and plots at his disposal to keep the Justice League in check just in case. In Bruce’s defense, heroes tend to get mindcontrolled or zombiefied every other story arc, so you can at least see where he’s coming from. Obviously, Batman’s anti-League protocols fall into the wrong hands (in this case, the Al Ghuls) and the relationship between Batman and the League takes a notable turn, playing through DC Comics for the remainder of the 2000’s. — Dave
43) Green Arrow: Year One
Creators: Andy Diggle, Jock
Issues: Green Arrow Year One #1 to #8
For anyone who hasn’t seen LOST, the success of CW’s “Arrow” (and the verse it spawned) can all be traced back to Green Arrow: Year One. Andy Diggle and the artistic might of Jock combine to solidify Oliver Queen’s modern island origins. For me, this was an incredible introduction to the work of Jock who has since gone on to incredible heights in collaborations with Scott Snyder (for example, Batman: The Black Mirror, or Wytches). Incredibly, you can hand this ‘Year One’ story to just about anybody interested in the legacy of Oliver Queen, and watch them come away a newfound comic book fan. — Dave
44) Green Arrow: Quiver
Creators: Kevin Smith, Phil Hester
Issues: Green Arrow #1 to #10
Speaking of the Emerald Archer, heading into the 2000’s, Oliver Queen was dead (literally) and directionless (editorially). Enter filmmaker Kevin Smith and artist Phil Hester, who put Ollie back on the map with an in-continuity revival that helps explain Green Arrow’s place in the DC Universe through the ages, and sets the stage for the role the character can play in the new millennium. Smith’s DC Comics writing definitely peaked with this story, but he gets a lot right introducing the Green Arrow to a new generation of readers. — Dave
45) Birds of Prey by Simone & Benes
Creators: Gail Simone, Ed Benes
Issues: Birds of Prey #56 to #108
Writer Gail Simone and frequent artistic collaborator Ed Benes didn’t create the Birds of Prey, but ask any fan of the comic about the team and series, and they’ll really without fail refer to the Simone era. This is where Barbara Gordon (Oracle), Dinah Lance (Black Canary), Helena Bertinelli (Huntress), and a rotating cast of interesting heroes, antiheroes and villains all truly come into their own as a unit. I don’t know that I can overstate the importance of making an all woman superhero squad this damn cool, when even attempting such a thing was (and remains!) a rarity in the DC Universe. Whether you’re a fan of the movie, or just looking for good comics, this run on Birds of Prey is a must. — Dave
46) Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman
Creators: Greg Rucka, Drew Johnson, James Raiz
Issues: Wonder Woman #206 to #213
Greg Rucka is commonly known and understood to be the definitive modern writer for Diana, and this first run, which is what leads to his eventual second run, is a good showcase for why. His interpretation of Diana as a political figure, icon, and writer, surrounded by Kythotaur (no, not Minotaur) chefs who cook only delicious vegetarian food and Supermen who edit her manuscript, is one that strikes a chord and feels at once classical yet fresh, particularly for its period.
It’s less of a straight forward superhero comic and more a thriller that’s heavily political, with conservatives who lose their mind at Diana’s progressivism to news show debates. It’s a run that’s messy, but yet also resonant in its messiness. You can’t not love Diana, our Wonder Woman, coming out of this. Rucka understood the very essence, the soul of the character. — Ritesh Babu
47) Batman: Hush
Creators: Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee
Issues: Batman #609 to #619
Spend enough years reading too many comics and you’ll find an encroaching realization that plenty of immensely popular works that you loved on your journey to getting into comics aren’t particularly cool among the critically acclaimed and respected crowd. Hush by Loeb and Jim Lee is definitely one of those works. While ultimately it doesn’t matter what other people suggest you should think about a comic (says the guy compiling a list of the 100 best!), I’m certain I couldn’t read Hush now without sucumbing to the criticisms I’ve seen about the recycled “parade of villains” approach Loeb took from “The Long Halloween,” or about the absolute inanity of the titular Hush as a Batman villain anyone should pretend to care about.
But when I read Hush in a library with as many comics as I could carry sitting in a stack next to me, voraciously reading one after the other as I rediscovered the joys of superhero stories? Oh yeah, Hush hit the damn spot. This is my favorite Jim Lee work of the 2000’s, as he makes the entire Batman Universe completely his own, and it’s the kind of story you can hand to anyone kinda interested in reading comics and hook them on the medium. That’s tremendously valuable, critics be gosh darned! — Dave
48) All-Star Superman
Creators: Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely
Issues: All-Star Superman #1 to #12
There’s a fine line that separates the tender humanity of Superman with the character’s super-sized mythology. And while the scope and scale of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s standalone miniseries “All-Star Superman” plays into The Man of Steel’s mythological trappings, with the 12 labors of Hercules informing its structure, it’s the humanity of the character that gives this story its emotional heft.
The death of Morrison’s father a year prior served as the inspiration behind the central premise of “What if Superman had cancer?” But rather than falling into a fatalistic, disillusioned take on heroism, “All-Star” is all about one man making the most of every second of every day he has left. Of course, this being Morrison, there are plenty of metafictional moments centered on the nature of Superman as a timeless character and the structure of time, but it’s the moments where Superman speaks to the human strength of the people around him, such as a now-iconic suicide prevention or a trip to a child’s cancer ward, that makes All-Star a comic that understands all sides of its hero. In the end, Superman as a fictional creation is designed to inspire us to be better because, to quote Lex Luthor’s humanist revelation at the end of Morrison’s story, “It’s all just us, in here, together. And we’re all we’ve got.” — Matt Draper
49) Gotham Central
Creators: Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Michael Lark
Issues: Gotham Central #1 to #40
What do Gotham Police do when Batman’s not around?
That’s the central premise of “Gotham Central,” a police procedural by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka, with art by Michael Lark and a rotating stable of artists. With Brubaker and Rucka alternating on short arcs, Gotham Central is able to shift its focus to quite a few different characters, each with their own investigative cases and character arcs. This is grounded, gritty storytelling in Gotham at its best because the characters, storylines, and genre necessitate it. And when larger than life figures like Batman or any number of his villains suddenly show up, they feel larger than life and justifiably terrifying.
While Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen are the breakout stars of the title, with the Montoya-centric arc “Half a Life” earning acclaim and awards, a major part of the appeal of “Gotham Central” is its constant unexpected shifts from story to story. Brubaker and Rucka would both go on to further noir acclaim with “Criminal” and “Stumptown,” but their passion for the genre is what gives “Gotham Central” its spark. Life on the Gotham beat is dark, unsettling, and unpredictable, but seeing its toll on the men and women trying to save the city stays compelling even when there’s no bat in sight. — Matt Draper
50) Manhunter (2004) Vol. 1 + Vol. 2
Creators: Marc Andreyko, Javier Pina, Jesus Saiz, Michael Gaydos, various
Issues: Manhunter #1 to #38
While longtime DC fans may know Manhunter as Paul Kirk, perhaps from the fantastic 70’s stories by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson, the 2000’s set up Kate Spencer, district attorney and costumed street vigilante. Sure, it’s very much DC’s “Daredevil,” but Kate is a very welcome addition to the universe, with Marc Andreyko, Jesus Saiz and collaborators crafting a deeply underrated run during the era of Identity Crisis. They certainly have their differences, but I definitely think of Kate Spencer along the same tier as Renee Montoya for additions of women characters in the 2000’s that made the entire universe stronger, yet still find themselves not fully integrated in the year 2020. This run is a roadmap for how to make it happen. — Dave
Creators: Darwyn Cooke, Ed Brubaker, Paul Gulacy, Jimmy Palmiotti
Issues: Catwoman #1 to #37
Darwyn Cooke and Ed Brubaker are absolute legends in the world of comics at this point (this list will certainly solidify that as we progress!), and their early 2000’s work on Selina Kyle and Catwoman is some of the best I’ve ever seen with the character. For my money, it’s actually the Catwoman story that very little has been able to capture since. Catwoman fits beautifully into the noir-crime world Cooke and Brubaker are so adept at bringing to life, making this a must-read for fans of either creator. — Dave
52) Identity Crisis
Creators: Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales
Issues: Identity Crisis #1 to #7
Let’s make one thing clear: Identity Crisis is one of the clearest examples of “fridging,” a storytelling cliche in which injury or death falls upon the hero’s loved one, spurring the heroes to action. It commits the age-old sin of framing the punishment of a woman around the anguish of the men who love her, rather than focusing on the women’s experience itself. Identity Crisis also exemplifies the worst impulses of comic writers: equating the inclusion of topics like murder and sexual assault with mature storytelling. However, for my money, this comic is one of the strongest stand-alone entry points into early 2000s DC Comics. Love it or hate it, this dark, brutal tone is here to stay for a time, and Identity Crisis ushers the reader through a compelling mystery that touches on most corners of the DC Universe with relentless energy and confidence. If you want to sum up the state of mid-2000s DC in one tight package, Identity Crisis is your comic.— Zack Deane
53) Batman: Under the Red Hood
Creators: Judd Winick, Doug Mahnke
Issues: Batman #635-641, #645-50 and Batman Annual #25
First off, if you don’t know anything about Red Hood in the DC Universe, skip this blurb and read, baby, read. Red Hood has become an undeniable fixture since this story, so I tend to assume most DC fans with a casual knowledge of the universe who hides behind the hood. That said, Batman’s second Robin, Jason Todd, was killed (after a preposterous, wait-that-really-happened? fan vote) in 1988. 15+ years later creators Judd Winick and Dough Mahnke returned to Todd in “Under the Red Hood,” exploring what would happen if he came back, and had a serious axe to grind with Batman for letting his murderer, the Joker, run loose all these years. It’s far from the best Batman story ever told, but it explores a pretty common question in the world of Gotham (why does Batman let Joker live?) and is capital I important. — Dave
54) Superman/Shazam: First Thunder
Creators: Judd Winick, Joshua Middleton
Issues: Superman/Shazam #1-4
The Man of Steel meets Earth’s Mightiest Mortal! Quite literally, as this acts as a first meeting between both Superman and Captain Marvel (Shazam) as well as Clark Kent and Billy Batson. It’s clear that this takes place very early in Billy Batson’s outings as Captain Marvel, he’s very unsure of himself as a person, but strives to be like his heroes, rushing into battle as though he’s been through this a million times. First Thunder sees Billy teaming up with Superman for the first time and really learning from him, while trying his hardest not to reveal his true identity, and importantly his age. — Mikayla Laird
55) Secret Six
Creators: Gail Simone, Dale Eaglesham, Brad Walker
Issues: Secret Six #1 to #36
Don’t tell anyone, but I actually like Secret Six more than Suicide Squad. Spinning out of the “Villains United” Infinite Crisis tie-in, Secret Six follows the likes of Catman, Deadshot, Bane, Ragdoll, Knockout and Scandal Savage as various jobs take them across the vastness of the DC Universe. Simone, Eaglesham and collaborators craft a sleek, smart, funny story of espionage and antihero-y tendencies that centers perfectly throughout 2000’s era DC Comics. Sometimes the villains of DC are more fun in theory than in story, but in Secret Six they’re all the absolute most fun they can be on the page. This book will make you like Catman and get genuinely offended by the assumptions that he’s a joke! — Dave
56) JLA: A League of One
Creators: Christopher Moeller
Christopher Muller writes and illustrates a gorgeous graphic novel in which Wonder Woman learns the Justice League is going to die to death at the hands of a Dragon, and then decides she has to defeat the entire league by herself to ultimately save their lives. And before fighting the Dragon by herself with her bare ass hands. It’s absolutely the kind of gloriously dumb concepts that can work in the right creator’s hands, and Moeller pulls it off. Plus, we get to see Batman take down the whole League every other Wednesday, which makes it all the more essential to see Diana operate on that same level, with that same strategy, and with even more power. — Dave
57) Superman: Secret Identity
Creators: Kurt Busiek, Stuart Immonen
Issues: Superman Secret Identity #1 to #4
Part of DC’s Elseworlds imprint, what if you were named after the world’s most famous comic book Superhero? What if you also had to live in middle America, being constantly compared to said Superhero? Clark Kent puts up with this every day, though the constant mocking from his classmates don’t exactly make life any easier. However, when camping alone one night, Clark finds himself flying up in the air. His strength has increased, and he finds himself with abilities straight out of the comic books. While this could very well be a blessing, it brings with it paranoia, confusion, and worry. Superman: Secret Identity follows the young Clark Kent as he tries to live his life and understand the reasons behind his strange abilities. — Mikayla Laird
58) DC: The New Frontier
Creators: Darwyn Cooke
Issues: The New Frontier #1-6
Darwyn Cooke’s 2004 limited series is designed to place the old school heroism of DC heroes within the historical context that gave birth to them in the first place through a story that wonders what the world would be like if heroes such as Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern actually came into the world in the year of their comic book debut. By being primarily set in the ‘50s, Cooke’s art is perfectly complemented by period-accurate mid-century design and fashion while his story of the Silver Age of heroes reckons with the hope of John F. Kennedy’s “New Frontier” speech and the horror of racial injustice.
“The New Frontier” encompasses a wide cast of characters, with each hero or team either being met with daring victories or tragic deaths as the United States tries to reckon with the Cold War abroad and injustices at home. What’s incredible about Cooke’s masterpiece is that it works just as well as an encapsulation of everything that makes DC Comics special as it does as one man’s attempt to grapple with everything that makes a nation both great and tragically flawed. Plus, there’s a giant floating alien dinosaur alien that gets blown up by The Flash running real fast. — Matt Draper
59) Superman: Red Son
Creators: Mark Millar, Dave Johnson, Killian Plunkett
Issues: Superman: Red Son #1 to #3
My literal favorite part about “Red Son” is Batman hopping around in his cute Russian winter hat, but admittedly the “What if Superman landed in Cold War Russia?” concept is a pretty strong hook too. “Red Son” definitely feels like Millar at his most restrained, channeling the energies of “Whatever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow?” rather than his darker trips into cynical depravity. It’s been long enough since I read it that I don’t know that this messaging holds up, but the general idea of Superman’s “American-ness” and the flukyness of that when you consider he crashed in a rocket on our planet is a really great entrypoint into understanding global humanity. The high concept is gorgeous if you let it be. — Dave
60) Infinite Crisis
Creators: Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Dave Gibbons, Phil Jimenez, George Perez, various
Issues: Full Event/Crossovers
I don’t necessarily love Infinite Crisis as a standalone seven issue event book, but when taken in tandem with the excellent over-sized “Countdown” and the various “Countdown” tie-ins that set the stage for things like Secret Six, Checkmate, and a whole bunch of 52, the holistic event is actually quite memorable. So when I say Infinite Crisis belongs on a list like this, I’m talking Omnibus sized, back breaking, can’t read this damn thing anywhere whole Infinite Crisis. Plus, you’ll never punch the mirrors of reality the same way again after reading this beast.– Dave
Creators: Greg Rucka, Jesus Saiz
Issues: Checkmate #1 to #12
After Infinite Crisis, the world turned against heroes, which perfectly set the stage for the super-secret spy agency Checkmate to return and pick up where teams like JLA fell. That political tension makes the book a taut thriller, almost like JLA’s own version of Gotham Central, except half “war on terror,” half “cold war.” By keeping fights to just the meaningful ones and cutting out other distractions, the book became more about characters outmaneuvering one another. The stakes aren’t just high, they’re argued until we understand all sides. And with that knowledge, the danger seems far more real than another monster or time-quake. Also, respect for basically reintroducing Alan Scott and Mr. Terrific. — John Galati
62) DC Universe: 52
Creators: Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Keith Giffen, Various
Issues: 52 #1 to #52
A weekly comic book bouncing around all corners of the DC Universe, from the minds of four celebrated writers at the peak of their powers, with Keith Giffen’s artistic vision centering everything…. there’s no way that would work, right? Against all odds, 52 tells a wide variety of compelling stories, from the Mad Scientist Island to Renee Montoya and Vic Sage’s journey to Booster Gold trying to figure out broken timelines. 52 is a remarkable follow up to Infinite Crisis, the rare moment in superhero comics where the fallout of an event actually gets dealt with in all kinds of meaningful ways instead of just moving on to the “next crisis.” Likewise, it’s thrilling to find a book at the center of DC that so expressly and purposefully pulls the familiar Justice League faces from the story’s center. The rest of the world gets to shine, and serves as a reminder why we fell for this universe in the first place. — Dave
63) Geoff Johns’ era Green Lantern
Creators: Geoff Johns, Black Lives Matter, Ivan Reis, Carlos Pacheco, Various
Issues: Green Lantern Rebirth #1-6, Green Lantern Corps Recharge #1-5, Green Lantern #1-25, Green Lantern Corps #14-18, Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps Special #1, Green Lantern Secret Files 2005 #1, Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Superman Prime #1 and Green Lantern/Sinestro Corps Secret Files #1
2020 me realizes it sure as hell isn’t “cool” for Hal Jordan to be your favorite Green Lantern, but getting into DC Comics for the first time and watching Hal conquer fear with nothing but a Han Solo attitude and willpower sure left a mark. I have an increasingly difficult time enjoying the work of Geoff Johns, but perhaps so much of it is I’m chasing the highs of Green Lantern and just know I won’t reasonably ever get back there. From the course correction of 90’s era Hal into a modern rejuvenation of the corps to the build-up of the Sinestro Corps War and the Yellow Lantern leader finally feeling like a DC supervillain worthy of a spot on the Legion of Doom, this era of Green Lantern became the center of the DC Universe until the New 52. — Dave
64) Blue Beetle (’06)
Creators: Keith Giffen, Cully Hammer
Issues: Blue Beetle #1 to #12
2000’s era DC Comics definitely becomes more resistant to legacy characters, which is unfortunate because it’s consistently one of the shared universe’s biggest advantages. Nonetheless, there are bright spots in the grand tradition, and the creation of Jamie Reyes as the new Blue Beetle following the events of Countdown to Infinite Crisis is a personal highlight. — Dave
65) Seven Soldiers
Creators: Grant Morrison, JH Williams III, Simone Bianchi, Doug Mahnke, Various
Issues: Full Event/Crossovers
What does a ‘Team Book’ where none of the members ever actually meet look like? Can something like that even be done? Is that even possible? Can you tell a sweeping, massive narrative with a team of characters, and pull that off? That’s at the crux of Seven Soldiers, as is the idea of taking the iconic NYC, the hub of Marvel, and asking what it looks like in the DC world.
The proto-Multiversity, and the prelude to Final Crisis, Seven Soldiers is Morrison’s triumphant DC return, with him at his most experimental and bold, let loose from tradition to pursue and revamp a diverse array of ideas and characters in radically distinct comics. And joining him are some of the best artists in comics, from your J. H Williams’ to Doug Mahnkes, they’re all here. And they’re all doing interesting structural, and narrative experiments, laying out an intricate macro-structure that is still wildly idiosyncratic. — Ritesh Babu
66) Superman: Last Son of Krypton
Creators: Geoff Johns, Richard Donner, Adam Kubert
Issues: Action Comics #844-846, #851, 866-870, And Action Comics Annual #11
A lot of times when big nerd culture celebrities are brought in to work on a comics project it’s 9/10ths marketing, but in the case of Superman Director Richard Donner listed as co-writer alongside Geoff Johns, the work is very strong, and decidedly in sync with Donner’s celebrated vision. — Dave
67) Superman: Secret Origin
Creators: Geoff Johns, Gary Frank
Issues: Superman: Secret Origin #1-6
Before they were Doomsdaying all over DC’s precious Watchmen license, Geoff Johns and Gary Frank were telling some actually solid Superman stories in the format of the “Secret Origin” flashbacks. — Dave
68) Gotham City Sirens
Creators: Paul Dini, Guillem March
Issues: Gotham City Sirens #1 to #26
Paul Dini’s certainly best known for his incredible role shepherding Batman: The Animated Series, but his DC Comics work is no slouch, and there’s little I enjoy more than Gotham City Sirens. Circling the space between Birds of Prey and Harley Quinn & The Birds of Prey, “Sirens” is a team-up book between Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn. It’s a perfect and needed tonal interjection into the dour heart of Gotham, sexy, funny and unpredictable. I don’t know that it starts here, but the rise of Harley Quinn as a cultural force certainly has strong roots in this work, expanded upon in everything from the Birds of Prey movie to the absolutely excellent Harley Quinn animated series. — Dave
69) Batman (Grant Morrison Era)
Creators: Grant Morrison, Andy Kubert, JH Williams III, Frank Quitely, JG Jones, Various
Issues: See the reading order!
What happens when you give the keys to the Batman kingdom to famed Scottish writer, Grant Morrison? A man who tends to focus heavily on the metaphysical and the idea of the metanarrative. You get DCs Silver Age reborn in the 2000s. The Morrison era of Batman begins with the introduction of Damian Wayne, Batman’s estranged son, before jumping headfirst down a rabbit whole involving The Batman of Zurr-En-Arh, and a journey through time, post Final Crisis. Morrison’s run on Batman truly challenges what it means to be Batman or a member of the Batman Family. Roles change hands when needed, as characters define what it means to live up to expectations, and take on the responsibility of the Bat to the world. — Mikayla Laird
70) Bryan Miller’s Batgirl
Creators: Bryan Miller, Lee Garbett
Issues: Batgirl #1 to #24
Ask comic book fans to name members of the Bat family and you’ll get a wide variety of answers, but it’s certainly going to be a shock when the few, the proud, the Miller/Garbett Batgirl fans drop Stephanie Brown into the conversation. — Dave
71) Batman: The Black Mirror
Creators: Scott Snyder, Jock, Francesco Francavilla
Issues: Detective Comics #871-881
Lovecraft’s Arkham was home to the disfigured, the cruel, the obscenely rich, and other forms of the criminally insane. It’s inspiration is clear on Gotham, which could easily be described as an open-air asylum. Or a psychologist’s maze. Black Mirror uses a city without Bruce Wayne to give fresh evidence of this. Dick Grayson takes on the mantle, leaving Jim Gordon to be the old soldier creating a split story. We feel Grayson’s vertigo from seeing how Gotham reveals its true nature only to Batman. And we dread beside Gordon as he waits, never knowing when the next tragedy will drop but certain that, whatever comes, it will target his cursed family. And when the streets run red, both men must learn a single lesson: the worst fear is not the unknown, but the intimately familiar revealed as a lie. — John Galati
72) Batman Inc.
Creators: Grant Morrison, Yannick Paquette, Chris Burnham
Issues: Batman Incorporated #1-8 & Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes! #1
“Batman, Inc.” serves as the third act of Grant Morrison’s time on Batman that spanned from 2006 through 2013 and by taking place after the author had established his larger-than-life Bat-God take on the character, it has the opportunity to be larger and more outlandish than ever. Here, after returning from a purgatorial trip through time and space (just go with it), Bruce Wayne decides that the only way to change the world is to go international and team up with the many heroes inspired by him over the years. While volume 1 acts as a series of mini-arcs that push Batman into new territories, volume 2 serves as the tragic culmination of everything that came before.
Morrison is an expert when it comes to playing with a character that will ultimately have to go on after he’s done on the title. And here, the author, teamed with the meaty, bone-breaking art of Chris Burnham, uses the inherent necessity of putting Batman back in the toybox for the next writer as a source of tragedy. Batman is eternal, the ouroboros forever eating its own tail in pursuit of justice that can never be fully attained because this character needs to keep fighting to sell comic books. That can be a source of inspiration for readers, but what does it mean for a son who is suddenly far more mortal than his godlike father? These questions make “Batman, Inc.” into an exploration of both the unlimited potential and tragic limitations of The Dark Knight. — Matt Draper
73) Batwoman: Elegy
Creators: Greg Rucka, JH Williams III
Issues: Detective Comics #854-860
Yes, the Grant Morrison written era of Batman (and related titles) was thrilling for a wide, wide variety of reasons, but one of the biggest hooks was how it opened doors across the whole line, such as creating a space for Kate Kane, the new Batwoman, to take over Detective Comics in the hands of Greg Rucka and JH Williams III. Rucka is obviously a formidable talent in comics, one of the most consistent creators in the medium, but JH Williams III’s stunning layout after layout is what makes “Elegy” stand tall with the all time greats. Factor in Kate Kane’s queer sexual orientation, an absolute rarity in the DC Universe, and this salvo in Batwoman is absolutely essential to the history of comics. — Dave
74) Animal Man (New 52)
Creators: Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman, Steve Pugh
Issues: Animal Man #1 to #29
75) Swamp Thing (New 52)
Creators: Scott Snyder, Yanick Paquette
Issues: Swamp Thing #1 to #18
Over at Marvel, they have established a unique aesthetic that’s come to be known as Cosmic Marvel, collecting a group of characters and concepts under something of a unified banner. I propose DC has done something similarly unique with the work of Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire on Swamp Thing and Animal Man, respectively. Building on the work of the Alan Moore written run of Swamp Thing, they have made concrete the building blocks of life with The Green and The Red: real, physical spaces governing the push and pull of natural forces (along with The Rot, always a danger but a necessary evil).
These two series weave together the rich histories of the characters of Alec Holland and Buddy Baker into something vibrant and fresh, a mythology that is singular to DC. And while Snyder and Lemire are masterful storytellers, these worlds would not linger in the mind without the horrifying, gruesome art by Travel Foreman and Yanick Pasquette (for Swamp Thing and Animal Man, respectively). I can’t imagine using the description “beautiful body horror” before seeing Foreman’s creations, but his visceral (and I mean that literally) vision of The Rot has to be seen to be believed. — Zack Deane
76) Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman
Creators: Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang
Issues: Wonder Woman #1 to #36
Coming into ongoing DC Comics fresh as a daisy with DC’s New 52, Wonder Woman by Azzarello and Chiang was exactly what I needed to sell me on the character. Or perhaps more accurately, to sell me on the world of the character. In particular, Chiang’s designs of old fashioned Greek mythology inside the superhero landscape of the DC Universe was thrilling, whether talking about the dripping candle wax of Hades’ head or the Donkey Kong 64 water level boss proportions of Poseidon. In retrospect I don’t know how much this era of Wonder Woman really does for Diana (certain elements, like her true father, leave an increasingly sour taste), but it certainly sold me on a style I wasn’t finding almost anywhere else in the New 52. — Dave
77) Batman by Snyder and Capullo
Creators: Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo
Issues: Batman #1 to #52
It may be lost to history, but when the New 52 started, it was Detective Comics – not Batman – that made all the headlines. That’s the book that gave up the longest running serialized issue count, and to top that, featured the Joker cutting off his own face in the first issue (which, lol)! Of course by the time Court of Owls was over, it was quickly evident that not only was Batman the superior book, but the creative team-up of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo was going to turn some damn heads. — Dave
78) Batman and Robin (New 52)
Creators: Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Andy Kubert
Issues: Batman and Robin #1 to #40, Annuals
Batman has had several partners in his journey to fight crime, however the challenge of working
together has never been greater. Batman and Robin of the New 52 sees Batman teamed up with his
own son, a young man brought up and trained to kill his enemies. Both father and son need to adapt
to this new dynamic as well as learn from each other, even if neither is especially happy about the
situation. The relationship between the two is one that grows and evolves over time, and Batman
and Robin explores this in a very poignant, but lively fashion. — Mikayla Laird
Creators: Tom King, Tim Seely, Mikel Janin
Issues: Grayson #1 to #20, Annuals
The true successor to Grant Morrison’s Bat-Epic and era, this was the run that dared to push Dick Grayson where he’d never been before. Splice together Morrison Batman and Ellisian espionage of the Wildstorm world, and you get this beautiful, charming spy book. From Midnighters to Maxwell Lords to Katherine Kanes, there was no corner Grayson wasn’t willing to touch.
It posited the bold question: What if Dick Grayson wasn’t a lesser Batman in a lesser Gotham, but was instead a big, bold, narratively important figure in the DCU that was genuinely his own man? It pit the man known for his openness and lack of secrecy in circumstances that demanded he act against those instincts. From character conflict, turmoil, twists, sprawling mythology and big ideas, this was an ambitious, forward-facing title that had it all. Yes, even Dick Grayson’s butt, as The Midnighter notes with a sly grin. — Ritesh Babu
80) Gotham Academy
Creators: Becky Cloonan, Branden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, various
Issues: Gotham Academy #1 to #17
What happens when you mix together Harry Potter and Slice Of Manga and set it in the context of a grand superheroic shared universe? That’s the crux of this wonderful title by Cloonan, Fletcher, brought to life by the terrific talents of Karl Kerschl.
What is it like to be a student in Gotham, where Batmen, Clayfaces, and Robins are all real? What ancient horrors and mysteries lurk in the shadows? Is that professor just weird or is it a supervillain in disguise? Oh no, does that guy I like hate me?! Gotham Academy was very much an accessible, lovely entrypoint not only into the DCU, but superhero comics at large, catering to a YA crowd, and offering a diversification of the work seen in Big Two.
It ended, but its spirit endures. It was warm, smart, emotional, and full of joy. It’s a book you can share with everyone. — Ritesh Babu
Creators: Steve Orlando, ACO, Stephen Mooney, Alec Morgan
Issues: Midnighter #1 to #12
While DC’s New 52 era Wildstorm Universe integration is generally an all-caps BAD IDEA, the fact that it spawned the incredible Midnighter solo series written by Steve Orlando honestly kind of saves the whole thing (as does the Midnighter and Apollo mini that followed!). Midnighter can get cynically and incorrectly reduced to “Gay Batman,” so Orlando and team are committed to fully fleshing out the hyper-violent, hyper-powerful vigilante, with as much insight into his love life, home life, and personality as his missions that lead to him punching out his own eardrums to avoid sonic hypnosis. Orlando’s a master at crafting extremely masculine queer characters who defy lingering stereotypes, and Midnighter is a fantastic fit among his work on the subject. — Dave
82) The Omega Men
Creators: Tom King, Barnaby Bagenda
Issues: Omega Men #1 to #12
Post-9/11 Star Wars. That’s it. That’s pretty much all you really need to know about this book, apart from the fact that it’s actually good, and not messy like The Prequels. Playing Kyle Rayner as the American Interventionist, in the Space Middle East that is The Vega System, the entire text is informed by writer Tom King’s own experiences in Iraq, and ends up a critique of US Interventionism, the messiness of war, the cyclical nature of violence. Rooted in King’s fascination with Alan Moore and Watchmen, the work is a 9-panel grid text, mimicking many of the storytelling techniques, right down to the end quotes.
A formalist revamp of The Omega Men, it works as both the first and last story of the team, boasting propaganda poster-esque covers to Encyclopedia Galactica entries. This is proper DC Cosmic, it’s hard sci-fi, it’s about what war really is and does. — Ritesh Babu
Creators: Mark Russell, Ben Caldwell
Issues: Prez #1 to #6
Have you ever read satire so real and biting, you almost watched it come true just months later, almost akin to prophecy? That was Prez. Mark Russell is a well known name now, having risen up with Flintstones, which everyone’s aware of. But the reason Flintstones exists is because of this book. Prez was a reboot of an old Joe Simon (Captain America co-creator) concept, about a kid president. It was meant to be a 12-part serialized satire. It unfortunately died at 6. This led to Russell opting for a strict one-and-done condensed storytelling approach, given his work could die fast like this one, leading to Flintstones.
But despite its fate, it remains a terribly funny, haunting, and alarmingly accurate look at an America controlled by cruel corporate overlords and murderous politicians with no values, as conservativism and idiocy reign about, and so much feels lost. — Ritesh Babu
84) The Multiversity
Creators: Grant Morrison, Various
Issues: The Multiversity #1 And 2, The Multiversity Guidebook #1 And Multiversity Issues: The Society Of Super-Heroes #1, The Just #1, Pax Americana #1, Thunderworld #1, Mastermen #1 And Ultra Comics #1
Grant Morrison’s epic, high concept, cosmic finale at DC Comics. Brewing for over half a decade, The Multiversity hit like a thundering revelation. If the prior Final Crisis drew up the myth of a Fifth World, this book delivered. It’s him in full Kirby mode. It’s the man in his 50s, much like The King in the ’70s, having done it all, returning with one big, final maelstrom of ideas, one giant monument of additive mythology. This is The Fifth World, and the ultimate cap-stone to everything he’s done at DC, and in Big Two comics, with a murderous row of top talent.
It spans DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Astro Cities, and every superhero world ever made, and goes on further to make some more, and pits them against the ultimate eternal threat. A tremendous display of his range as a writer, able to pull off everything from Wagernian tragedy to Watchmen formalism, it’s a multiversal trip you’re likely to remember. — Ritesh Babu
85) Superman by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Creators: Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason
Issues: Superman #1 to #45
Superman is often referred to as ‘your dad’s superhero’. He is a hero that stands for truth and justice and is genuinely a strong role model in any young readers life. Superman as written by Tomasi and Gleason makes this abundantly clear by seeing Clark Kent as a father, committed to his family with Lois Lane, and their 10-year-old son, Jon Kent. The series explores the idea of both what it means to be Superman, and what young superpowered Jon must keep in mind growing up. The stories ranged from small adventures of Jon learning to use his abilities, mixed in with grand epic scale Superman stories of old. — Mikayla Laird
86) James Tynion IV’s Detective Comics
Creators: James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows, Alvoaro Martinez
Issues: Detective Comics #934 to #981
One of the most stale Batman stories for me is exploring the loss of Bruce Wayne’s humanity as his hyper-fixation on his crusade against crime increases. We get it, Bruce, you’re more bat than man, it truly is the dark knight of your soul, blah blah blah. That is why James Tynion IV’s Detective Comics is such a breath of fresh air; it’s about more than just dealing with Batman’s past moral compromises and the chipping away of his soul, it’s about how a new generation of heroes build upon his legacy to surpass him. Batwoman, Red Robin, and Clayface (in an enthralling new role as a hero) grapple with respecting the man who became Gotham’s greatest hero while still realizing Gotham deserves better. Neither hagiography nor damnation of the Dark Knight, Tynion’s Detective Comics feels clear-eyed and bold in its appraisal of Batman. — Zack Deane
87) Deathstroke by Christopher Priest
Creators: Christopher Priest, Carlo Pagulayan, Ed Benes, Various
Issues: Deathstroke #1 to #50
As one of the very few DC Rebirth launches that actually stuck with a consistent creative team for the first four years of the era, Deathstroke has gone from “Best Book of the Year” praise to forgotten old favorite over the years. It was only three years ago that comics critics were hailing the incredible “Chicago” issue for its approach to tackling inner city gun violence. Did Deathstroke drop off that much in quality as it kept going, or did we all just take it for granted? — Dave
88) New Super-Man
Creators: Gene Luen Yang, Viktor Bogdanovic, Billy Tan
Issues: New Super-Man #1 to #19
Gene Yang is brilliant. We know this. Gene Yang was screwed over badly on Superman by Eddie Berganza. We also know this. Thrown into terrible mandated crossovers on his first foray into corporate capes, Yang was given a raw deal. But then something happened. Jim Lee proposed he do a Chinese Superman. Not Chinese-American, but Chinese. Yang didn’t want to. He hated the idea. But then he thought about it.
And then he did what Yang does: Make a brilliant comic. What you have is a devilishly clever, curious work that’s about cultural conversations, how one culture informs another, how superheroes and politics intersect, and where the Superman falls into it all. But even as it is all that, while being an accessible exploration of the central DC ideas in a Chinese context, it’s also one that mines deep continuity to take a look at yellow peril and other ugly parts of the publisher’s past, going right back to Detective Comics #1. It’s fun, it’s honest, it’s fresh, it’s insightful, it’s what Gene Yang does best. — Ritesh Babu
89) Super Sons
Creators: Peter Tomasi, Jorge Jimenez
Issues: Super Sons #1 to #16
What happens when you put Damian Wayne, the 13-year-old assassin son of Batman, with Jonathan Kent, the half-Kryptonian 10-year-old son of Superman? Super Sons teams up the kids of two of DCs greatest superheroes in adventures that are fun, energetic and embraces the youthful spirit of both characters. Missions often find the serious and commanding Damian frustrated by Jon’s happy demeanor, and superpowered approach to the problem. Super Sons was short lived, but extremely entertaining and one that brings a smile to the face of its readers. — Mikayla Laird
90) DC Comics: Bombshells
Creators: Marguerite Bennett, Marguerite Sauvage
Issues: Bombshells #1 to #33
Anyone who reads Big Two comics is familiar with the excitement of picking up a series with a compelling premise only to realize that the intriguing concept is the only noteworthy thing going for it, with no follow-through that takes the idea someplace great. Well, if you like the idea of reimagining the women of DC as 1940’s American propaganda posters (think Rosie the Riveter as a superhero), I’m pleased to say that DC Comics: Bombshells, written by Marguerite Bennett, takes that fun concept and spins it into a unique and riveting Elseworlds story. In this WWII yarn, Kate Kane is a League-Of-Their-Own style major league baseball star (Batwoman as Bat Woman, get it?), Catwoman is a femme fatale straight out of a spy noir film, and Supergirl is the Soviets’ secret weapon. With the right balance of winking fun and grounded storytelling, Bombshells is the promise of a great concept fulfilled.– Zack Deane
91) Doom Patrol (Young Animal)
Creators: Gerard Way, Nick Derington
Issues: Doom Patrol #1 to #12
92) Shade the Changing Girl (Young Animal)
Creators: Cecil Castellucci, Marley Zarcone
Issues: Shade the Change Girl #1 to #12
For its all too brief lifespan, DC’s Young Animal imprint, curated by longtime My Chemical Romance frontman, the leader the Black Parade himself, Gerard Way, was an injection of weird, inventive, and stylish fresh air. Clearly inspired by Grant Morrison and turn of the 90’s Vertigo Comics, Young Animal got to make the DC Universe weird again, and more often than not it succeeded. My two favorite successes from the era find Way and the incredible Nick Derington doing Morrison’s Doom Patrol justice (and then some), building off the inspirations to modernize and celebrate the wonderful legacy of the team. Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone have more challenging hills to climb, recontextualizing the Shade the Changing Man franchise from Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo. Shade the Changing Girl becomes a fever dream meta exploration of everything from bullying to mental health. Rest in Power Young Animal. — Dave
Creators: Tom Taylor, Bruno Redondo, Mike Miller, Various
Issues: Injustice Gods Among Us Year One – Year Five
Listen, not every comic can be as formally creative as Watchmen or thematically dense as Mister Miracle. And not every comic has to be! Sometimes there’s a simple joy in reading about a simple Elseworlds story done well, like“What if the Justice League was set in feudal Japan?” or “What if Batman teamed up with Houdini to fight vampires?”. Injustice: Gods Among Us asks the simple question, “If Superman was going to turn bad and conquer the Earth, how would that happen?” and follows through with that idea to its natural conclusions. Tom Taylor, tasked with the unenviable job of writing a digital comic based off of a Mortal Kombat style fighting game, crafted something vital enough that, 7 years later, I suspect the legacy of Injustice will be in the (still-ongoing) comic adaptation and not the games. — Zack Deane
94) DC Metal (Complete Event)
Creators: Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Various
Issues: Full Event/Crossovers
One of my 3 favorite Big 2 comic book events, definitely behind 2015’s Secret Wars, but giving my Age of Apocalypse nostalgia everything it can handle. Snyder and Capullo’s Metal (originally supposed to be called ‘Dark Crisis,’ and make no mistake, it fits well within DC’s Crisis narrative) is a victory lap following their celebrated New 52 Batman run. The event is equal parts dense (a degree in Morrison-ology and the Hawkman mythos are among the DC comics knowledge base that go a long way!), and chalk full of “ROCK ON” action that any comic reader can fist pump about (*ahem* Joker Dragons *ahem*). Plus, the full event reading order is way tighter than most sprawling crossovers! — Dave
95) Mister Miracle
Creators: Tom King, Mitch Gerads
Issues: Mister Miracle #1 to #12
A stone cold classic from top to bottom. A comic that deserves, in 20 years time, to be so ubiquitously considered a masterpiece that jaded comic fans will roll their eyes at how obvious a choice it is for their favorite comic blog’s “Top Five Superhero Comics” list (realheads know this hidden gem called Watchmen is where it’s really at). Tom King and Mitch Gerads effortlessly weave a tale that encapsulates PTSD and depression, the banality and horrors of war, and the simple, everyday beauty of marriage. Rooted in the New Gods mythos Jack Kirby built in the 70s, Mister Miracle simultaneously taps into the legacy of the medium of comic books (my god, the nine panel grid usage here!) while still always showcasing King and Gerards’ singular style. This is a comic that demands to be read carefully, then read again, and then again. — Zack Deane
96) The Green Lantern
Creators: Grant Morrison, Liam Sharpe, Tom Orzechowski
Issues: The Green Lantern #1 to #12, Blackstars #1 to #3, The Green Lantern Season Two #1 to #12
I’ve cooled a bit on season two, but season one sure got John and I excited!
97) Superman Smashes the Klan
Creators: Gene Luen Yang, Gurihiru
Issues: Superman Smashes the Klan #1 to #3
A story dating back to the 1940s but retold and strengthened as its message radiates just as much now as it did then. Superman is pitted against the Klan of the Fiery Cross, as a Chinese American family move to Metropolis and find themselves the subjects of racial attacks. The children of the family find themselves the most heavily effected, and work with Superman to begin to understand the reasoning behind the attacks, and possibly save another child from falling into that mindset. The story ties the ideas of alienation to both the children, as well as Clark’s own feelings about himself. — Mikayla Laird
98) Batman: Creature of the Night
Creators: Kurt Busiek, John Paul Leon
Issues: Batman: Creature of the Night #1 to #4
Young Bruce Wainwright is obsessed with Batman, especially due to the similarity to his own name. Bruce begins to find as many connections he can, even taking joy in the fact that he has an Uncle Alfred. It’s all fun and games, until his parents are murdered in a robbery gone wrong. Now young Bruce is on his own in the world, granted, he is supported by his reasonably large inheritance. But he can’t shake the feeling that it’s all part of a conspiracy, which is only strengthened when a Bat like creature begins to appear to Bruce. — Mikayla Laird
99) Batman Universe
Creators: Brian Michael Bendis, Nick Derington
Issues: Batman: Universe #1 to #6
What do you get when you force Brian Michael Bendis to ditch his decompression and force him to compress story into 12-pagers? Some of the best, most tight work of his career that boasts everything you love about the iconic writer. With artist extraordinaire Nick Derington as his partner, Bendis builds his own, personal vision of Batman, which disposes of dull attempts at ‘realism’ and ‘seriousness’, and instead opts for a high-energy operatic adventure, a Brave and the Bold-style voyage across the great canvas of the DC Universe.
It’s accessible, it’s fun, it’s filled to the brim with everything you love about superhero universes and comics, from gimmicky-criminals, western gunslingers to crazy cosmic beings. A travelogue that lets Derington cut loose and put together the tapestry of the DCU for both old readers and new alike, it’s a trip that’s more about the journey than the destination. It’s not about plot, but it is about great moments. — Ritesh Babu
100) Green Lantern: Far Sector
Creators: NK Jemesin, Jamal Campbell
Issues: Far Sector #1 to #12
If you told me in early 2019 that DC was going to introduce another Green Lantern in their own solo book (and not only another Green Lantern, another human Green Lantern), I can’t imagine being less curious. But when it was revealed that three-time Hugo award winning sci-fi author N.K. Jemisin was writing this new 12 issue maxi-series for DC’s Young Animal imprint, my ears perked up. And the series did not disappoint. A self-contained story of murder and social upheaval on a faraway world, Far Sector allows Jemisin to flex her worldbuilding muscles. With Jamal Campbell’s stunning art, The City Enduring is quickly established as a fascinating locale, both familiar and alien in its intricacies. And by the time you get a few issues into this series, the bold new Green Lantern, Sojourner “Jo” Mullein, might just have you saying “Hal who?” — Zack Deane
Site this says
What the hell did Geoff Johns do to you to hate him this much lol. Your list tries so hard to ignore his stuff which are much better than most of these comics you listed.
Injustice:God’s among us didn’t make the list seriously í ¾í´¨ but I guess you did your bestí ¾í´·
Mark Belktron says
Fantastic list. I agree with almost all your picks. I will post this on my DC in the 80’s account on Facebook.
Hugo Melo says
First off, I want ot say I love your page. Your reading orders have been essential for me since getting back to reading comics a couple of years back, after an absence of over 20 years!
I’m glad to say i’ve read the vast majority of these comics, and agree they are fantastic comics. There are, however, some big omissions, namely, most of al, The Sandman.
Its as influential and fantastic as a comic can be. If Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits makes the cut, despite being a Vertigo title, then so should Sandman. Books of Magic as well, while we are at it.
Sandman is very explicitly within the larger super-hero DC universe, as Mr. Miracle, Dr. Destiny, The Scarecrow, Martian Manhunter feature on it, and even Batman appears in one panel, for example. Places like Arham Asylium are also featured in the series. My suggestion? Lump Batman Inc with Morrison’s Batman run (it belongs there anyway, as its a direct continuation of his previous Bartman work). This way, you have a empty spot to put The Sandman in. Come on, you know it deserves to be in this list.
Hugo Melo says
Oh, and I’d lump The Black Mirror with Batman by Scott Snyder, and replace it with Paul Dini’s Detective Comics and Streets of Gotham run, and call it Batman, by Paul Dini.
I think Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman run is issues #195-226 if I’m not mistaken.
Seeing Mad Love in the list I can’t help to suggest Harleen by Stjepan Sejic. Aside from the godlike art, it elevates Mad Love to a psyche study of Harleen Quinzel. Did I mention the awesome art?
A really fantastic list that I have only one problem with: There’s a few stories on this list that could have been listed together in order to free up an extra spot. I’m thinking Batman Inc. could have been added to Morrison’s Batman and The Black Mirror could have gone with Batman by Snyder. I’d have to go through the list again but I think there is at least one other instance of something like this. Now I have no idea what you would add instead though. Anyways, this list is going to be great to go through. Its been about 5 years since you did the Marvel one so I’d love to see an update. Also, I’d love to see another company or imprint as well. Thank you!
Hugo Melo says
Agree with that notion. Batan Inc could be included in the Morrison run, and Black Mirror on Snyder’s.
I’d replace the Batman Inc spot with The Sandman, and the Black Mirror spot with either The Books of Magic, Hellblazer: All His Engines or Family Man, or Tynion’s Justice League Dark myself.