For the next 10 weeks, we’ll be posting 10 selections from the upcoming CBH guide to the best 100 DC Comics since Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985). Once released, all 100 will be published together for one mega guide in general chronological order!
Picks 51 through 60 cover comics released in the early 2000’s through the mid 2000’s. We’ll release the full list of selection criteria with the best 100 comics guide, but for now here are some caveats:
- 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!
- The write-ups are the work of various writers across Comic Book Herald. That said, 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!
Without further ado, check out our picks for the best DC Comics to read!
Previously: The Best 100 DC Comics Since Crisis!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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