Sellers Points: The New 52’s Top 20 Part 3

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Lately DC Comics has endured a lot of negative press thrown its way over the DCYou revamping of its line. While critically praised for the most part, its direct market sales have been less than stellar.

That subject has been covered pretty well. And while direct sales do not reflect sales as a whole nor do they include other markets, they can’t be ignored. When DC rebooted in 2011 with the New 52, it enjoyed a fairly long period of increased sales in the direct market, even overtaking Marvel for a few months.

Of course, there were a lot of unhappy people about this. As there seem to be about anything DC does these days. But, in the last month, more and more people have taken to outright bashing the New 52 like it’s 2011 all over again. And most of those self-appointed arm-chair critics have obviously glossed over quite a few books that would ruin their narrative of “DC sucks.”

Last week, I looked at some horror titles and a few obscure books that likely got overlooked by most. This week is all about those titles that influenced and were influenced by major TV shows currently running and some gone too soon. So, once again, friends and…the rest of you…let’s examine another five titles you have to forget about in order to keep that anti-DC mentality alive.

How it feels to listen to Russell prattle on about DC Comics.
How it feels listening to Russell prattle on about DC Comics.

 

Green Arrow

Green Arrow 17 coverLet’s get it out of the way: the first 16 issues of this series were pretty terrible. On the verge of cancellation, DC handed this one off to a new creative team that would turn things around in a huge way. Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino had each made a name for themselves through other work in the New 52, but when the opportunity to work together presented itself, they jumped at the right time. Green Arrow had floundered in constant tonal shifts, but then Lemire took a page from the popular TV show and the praised efforts of Andy Diggle’s Year One and Mike Grell’s Longbow Hunters to craft something incredible. The title finally went where Green Arrow belongs: street level crime fighting.

But it didn’t stop there. Then Lemire introduced several new concepts including weapons clans and the reintroduction of Richard Dragon. Lemire also brought in Diggle, a popular character from the Arrow TV show and made him a great partner for Oliver. And don’t forget the INCREDIBLE art from Sorrentino. While I, Vampire got him editorial attention, it was his Green Arrow run that made him a legend. His action scenes were nothing short of breath-taking. It made the book the most dynamic of all the New 52 titles at the time. Luckily, everyone in editorial realized this direction was much closer to what the audience wants and have maintained that tone with each of the new creative teams. Now, Ben Percy and Patrick Zircher are capitalizing on what Lemire and Sorrentino built. And so far, it’s working out pretty well. The popularity of the TV show for sure had something to do with interest in Green Arrow and has provided a bit of a boost to the book’s sales. Thankfully, the editors at DC realized that capitalizing on that popularity was exactly the way to go for the title. Complaints about the New 52 being “too gritty” certainly didn’t fall onto this one. And keeping this title separate from the rest of the regular superhero titles helped it tremendously, too. Giving Oliver a chance to just be on his own and away from the rest of the main DC heroes is having a similar effect on this book that separating Wonder Woman had during the Azzarello/Chiang run. And now that Percy is moving Oliver toward being the grizzled lefty he was in the Dennis O’Neil run, things are getting even more interesting. Since issue #17, this one has been right on target.

Never, ever make fun of the trick arrows.
Never, ever make fun of the trick arrows.

 

Supergirl

Supergirl #1 coverSeveral characters got a fresh start in the New 52, but Supergirl was one of those to get a true origin beginning at issue #1. Her first encounter with humanity wasn’t exactly a welcome one. Given the military got to her first, they didn’t exactly roll out the welcome mat. And even when Superman shows up, things don’t go any better for anyone. She’s been in a kind of stasis for a long time and the last she remembered of Kal-El, he was a baby and she was 16. It’s the story of a girl who’s scared, but then find herself in possession of superior abilities. Writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson with artist Mahmud Asrar brought a unique vision to Kara, which made her at once venerable and relatable. As the first arc unfolds, she distrusts Superman is who he claims to be and she winds up going on her own to try and figure things out for herself. Showing her decking Superman at one point also serves as a great illustration that she’s stronger than ever before.

Where this title shows great strength is in showing Kara adapting on her own to Earth. She only spoke Kryptonian at the beginning but she picks up on other languages fairly quickly. Mike Johnson also crafted great scripts and made Kara feel like a real person dealing with an unbelievable situation. The reinvention of Silver Banshee was one of the best character evolutions in the New 52. Her story arc proved to be a shining moment for the series. Kara evolves into a hero naturally and without trying to simply live up to the legend of Superman. She was truly unburdened by his shadow as she forged her own path independent of Kal-El. As the series evolved, it unfortunately found itself burdened by the He’l on Earth crossover with the Superman and Superboy titles. Luckily, its follow up story introduced a new version of Cyborg Superman that was as compelling as the previous continuity incarnation. The personal connection to Kara made him one of the most evil and sympathetic villains introduced in the New 52. Michael Alan Nelson took over as the sole writer for, making Kara a member of the rage-filled Red Lantern Corps, which surprisingly did a lot for her development. Mike Johnson came back with veteran Tony Bedard and new-comer K. Perkins making her comics debut. And she gave Supergirl great definition in the Crucible arc that put Supergirl in a “sci-fi Hogwarts.” From beginning to end, this one was full of character, action and fun with excellent art and scripts. And was largely ignored thus it was cancelled. Hopefully a new high-profile TV series on CBS starting October 26 will help spur new interest in a solo title.

Because it's not all about punching and beating up everyone who looks like a monster.
Because it’s not all about punching and beating up everyone who looks like a monster.

 

The Flash

The Flash #1 coverWhen comic historians (yes, that’s a thing) discuss great comic art decades from now, there is no way the Brian Buccellato and Francis Manpul Flash run isn’t part of the conversation. This book quickly became the talk of the comic shop when fans got their first look at Manapul’s layouts and character motion. To call it anything less than brilliant is a gross understatement. Buccellato and Manapul as a writing and art duo turned The Flash into a can’t-miss comic month in and month out. They also gave Barry Allen something younger fans had often complained of him lacking: a sense of humor!

While Barry wasn’t Wally West (who debuted a bit later in the series), he had his own brand of humor. Not unlike his TV show counterpart, Grant Gustin. Or rather, Gustin adopted the sense of humor found in the New 52 incarnation of Barry Allen. While the story in the comic is very different from the TV show, the characters are incredibly similar, showing that the writers, producers and stars of the CW hit were paying attention to their source material while putting together what is probably the best superhero show on TV today. Manapul’s designs and story ideas pushed Barry into territory not seen in the previous continuity. The expansion of his abilities to include his mind moving at super speed was something that required not just quick thought, but deep amounts of detail in order to illustrate accurately. Luckily, Manapul is the best in the business today when it comes to layout and design. He effortlessly directs the reader’s eyes, regardless of which way the action is flowing. He can at once demolish a scene with high-octane energy or drop in those deep character moments with a sideways smile and pouty eyes. It’s a rare gift to see an artist pull off both, sometimes within the same scene. Sadly, the team moved on shortly before issue #30, but the former Green Lantern Corps writing team of Van Jensen and Robert Venditti picked up the ball and have kept things rolling nicely. Brett Booth steps in on art, and while following Manpul is no easy task for any artist, his action scenes get better and better with each issue. Needs a little work on how people walk when leaving a room, but his new designs for Wally West and Professor Zoom are right on. And it’s pretty clear the new team loves that TV show, too. This is still one of the titles most in-need of your attention.

Does it really need a caption?
Does it really need a caption?

 

Green Lantern Corps

Green Lantern Corps #1 coverLike the Geoff Johns Green Lantern run, Green Lantern Corps was on a similar stellar run, largely thanks to its killer team of Peter Tomasi and Fernando Pasarin. While the book was about the Corps, its heart was in the near-perfect duo of John Stewart and Guy Gardner. Where the GLC succeeds most is in its ability to be essentially Lethal Weapon but with space cops. And, as in the previous continuity, Tomasi was heading up the larger team books while Johns was the overall architect and Hal Jordan aficionado. For the first 20 issues, Tomasi continued the Corps direction from the previous continuity, building toward the Rise of the Third Army crossover and the big finale, Wrath of the First Lantern. Following up a run nearly as long as Johns’ was going to be a big challenge.

Van Jensen came to DC with very little comics background, having only really done his independent title Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer. He was also dealing with some bad press from a high-profile walk-out by Joshua Hale Fialkov who was originally going to be the new writer on the title. The reasons were never fully disclosed but the supposed editorial edict to kill John Stewart was shot down completely as Jensen and artist Bernard Chang gave Stewart what was easily the biggest character-defining story he’s had in years. Jensen knew exactly which story beats to hit and how to show Stewart was far more than just a straight-laced military man. With Jensen, John had soul and some major soul-crushing moments. He was put through the proverbial wringer time and again, but always managed to rise to the occasion and come out stronger. While some had complaints about all the Lantern titles being a near-constant state of crossover once the new creative teams took over, Uprising was one of the best Green Lantern stories ever told and truly changed the status quo for the GLC in ways that are still being felt on the title now. And it’s hard not to sing Chang’s praises when it comes to his style and character designs. His contrast of somewhat photonegative action with bright greens and incredible facial expressions are some of the best the series has seen under any artist. It especially shines when the new characters Jensen and Chang created are given moments in the spotlight. Jruk is one of the best new Lanterns created by anyone and hopefully gets even more time on the page soon. This series had a clear influence on the gone-too-soon Green Lantern: The Animated Series and could easily find its way onto TV and/or movie screens soon, too. With all the Coast City teasing we’ve been getting from the Arrow producers lately, maybe it’ll actually pay off. More people need to see this series for the gem it is and with all the trade collections out now, it’s never been easier.

Jruk destroys all enemies...and steals scenes.
Jruk destroys all enemies…and steals scenes.

 

Earth 2

Earth 2 #1 coverJumping straight to using a multiverse concept right after a reboot can be tricky since you’re trying to establish your core characters in several titles. But in this case, James Robinson and Nicola Scott stepped up to the plate and sent one out of the park! The old Justice Society of America might have been left in the previous continuity, but Robinson and Scott managed to reinvent Alan Scott, Jay Garrick and Hawkgirl and set up one of the most epic storylines in the entire New 52. It certainly had one of the boldest first issues of any New 52 series. After introducing alternate versions of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman, Robinson has them give their lives to save the planet from an invasion from Darkseid. From there, he builds the title around Green Lantern, Flash and Hawkgirl. Robinson also made this new version of Alan Scott gay and made Earth 2 a strong example of how to make a title diverse without patting yourself on the back. And Nicola Scott’s designs are probably better than the ones used in the main Justice League title. Not to knock on Jim Lee, but some extra consideration should have been given to some of Scott’s ideas.

Robinson eventually stepped away from the book and the then-newcomer Tom Taylor stepped in to continue, almost without missing a beat. Taylor was writing the popular video game tie-in series to Injustice: Gods Among Us and he brought a similar skill and idea set to Earth 2. While he didn’t introduce the evil Superman to the series, he certainly perfected it as an idea. The build to the second Darkseid invasion was expertly handled by everyone involved and couldn’t have been plotted better. The scope was certainly big and some might say too big for one title, but as it built toward the final conflict, Taylor showed his scheme was actually pretty perfect because it was contained to one title. And don’t think he forgot about character development. Both Robinson and Taylor built up Jay Garrick to be the everyman link the story absolutely needed. And Garrick’s popularity is well-known to any DC fan, and is going to be even bigger now that the CW’s mega-hit The Flash has introduced the character in its second season. There is a downside, though, as Taylor left just as the book reached the shift to being a supplemental story to the weekly World’s End. While the weekly tried to do too much at once and suffered a major quality drop as a result, all the story arcs leading up to it were solid and the current Earth 2: Society has proven to be a follow-up worthy of Robinson’s and Taylor’s runs. If there’s one superhero book in the New 52 that really did take some big chances on its characters and direction, this was it and it’s one you shouldn’t miss.

There's room for all types of Lanterns in this multiverse!
There’s room for all types of Lanterns in this multiverse!

Next week:

Until then, happy reading! 

Author: Russell Sellers

Comic book geek extraordinaire, Russell Sellers enjoys enthusiastic conversations about all things geek. He also traffics in ill-timed puns and random obscure Ghostbusters quotes. Send Russell an email