This article was originally published at June 23, 2016.
This month sees the Rebirth of the DC Univervse, the biggest DC Comics event since the New 52 began with Justice League #1 almost five years ago. It all started with an enormous, earthshaking issue with plenty of big changes, and it’s receiving a very warm response. Geoff Johns, the issues writer and CCO of DC Entertainment, is even going so far as to offer a money back guarantee.
Before we all move into the next era of DC Comics, it’s a good time to reflect on what came before. The New 52 may be over, but its effects will still be felt for a long time to come. No matter how you may feel about the period overall, it’s impossible to deny that it produced some truly excellent comics from start to finish.
This top ten is all about runs on the ongoing series that composed the New 52, which means no events or mini-series (sorry “Night of Owls” and Multiversity). So before you submit your pre-orders for all of the exciting new series coming in the months ahead, take a look back at the best DC Comics series of the past five years. ComicBook.Com is here to collect the absolute best series of the New 52 to remember and recommend before Rebirth is in full effect.
10. Gotham Academy
Gotham Academy #1-12
While many offbeat series are ending with the start of “Rebirth”, it should be no surprise that Gotham Academy will continue. This high school drama has combined the eccentricities of the Batman mythos with the fun of a CW show to create one of the most uniquely enjoyable comics at DC Comics. The series manages to please both Bat-fans and younger readers with its quirky humor and propulsive plotting. The delight of seeing characters like Maps go on adventures and misadventures each month never ceases. Gotham Academy has been spinning its wheels while searching for a new artist, but big things are in store for its future with both a relaunch and much-anticipated crossover with Lumberjanes.
9. Action Comics
Action Comics #1-18
Writer Grant Morrison had already written one iconic take on Superman when he was selected to tackle the character’s origins in Action Comics. While the overall quality of this 18 issues run may seem mixed, its highs reveal an incredible understanding of the standard-bearer for superheroism at DC Comics. Action Comics #9 and 13 are classic stand alone issues, and the finale of this run pays off the character of Mr. Mxyzptlk in a way no one has since Alan Moore. This collection of Action Comics issues blend Silver Age fun with modern comics storytelling in a way that’s bound to please Superman fans for years to come.
Grayson #1-17, Grayson: Future’s End #1
There may be no bigger rising star at DC Comics than writer Tom King and it first became clear he was someone to watch in the pages of Grayson. The “Future’s End” special of this series is the highlight of the entire event, playing with formal aspects of the comics medium to allow readers to read it multiple times, both backwards and forwards, and find wheels within wheels. Grayson was consistently clever, but also a lot of fun to read. The series let Dick Grayson make friends with even the surliest of allies and wink at readers while showing off his twinkling smile. It was a joyous James Bond style of spy series and one well worth checking out.
7. Batgirl of Burnside
While Barbara Gordon may have returned to the role of Batgirl at the start of the New 52, it was the creative team of Cameron Stewart, Babbs Tarr, and Brenden Fletcher that reinvigorated the character. The “Batgirl of Burnside” era is defined by a youthful tone and fast-paced, pop art aesthetic. This run on Batgirl focused on relevant topics through the creation of a wide swath of new villains, merging anxieties with colorful costumes. Even more impressive was the introduction of a stellar new comics artist in Babs Tarr defining the feel of Batgirl with guidance from Cameron Stewart’s extraordinary layouts. The look of Batgirl here will be definitive for a generation of comics readers and remains a lot of fun to read.
6. Dial H
Dial H #1-15
There are few concepts at DC Comics more bizarre than Dial H, and there were few better executed in the New 52. Writer China Mieville and artist Mateus Santolouco embraced the strangeness from the very start exploiting all of the odd powers and mysterious forces contained within the H dial. The series reads like a classic Vertigo launch, on par with Animal Man or Swamp Thing, pushing the comics medium forward while still enjoying the fun elements of the superhero genre. It was taken before its time, but is still definitely worth a look now that it has been completely collected in a single omnibus.
5. Batman Incorporated
Batman Incorporated #1-13
Grant Morrison had been working on his epic Batman run for many years before the launch of the New 52, but it was in this era he concluded it all in the pages of Batman Incorporated. All of the plot threads involving Damian Wayne, the League of Assassins, and Batman’s efforts to make himself a global brand came to a head in a shocking fashion. The battles were never bigger and the stakes were never higher than during these 13 issues. Morrison and artist Chris Burnham delivered it all together and provided readers with an incredible statement on who Batman is.
While Prez may have only seen six issues published in the New 52, it remains one of the shining stars of the period and has more coming soon. This offbeat satirical tale of a young woman nicknamed “Hot Dog Girl” taking the Presidency becomes more prescient with each news cycle of the current Presidential election. While the series utilized a truly insane sense of humor that produced laughs on every page, its subjects were always smart and left readers with plenty to think about. This initial run of Prez was something truly special and we’re all lucky we can look forward to more.
3. Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman #1-35
Despite her popularity with fans of all ages and genders, Wonder Woman has often struggled to find a series with as much power as her character. At the start of the New 52 writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang delivered the iconic take on this member of DC Comics’ trinity that fans had been waiting for though. Together they reexamined and redesigned the pillars of Wonder Woman’s legend, exploring her roots in Greek mythology. Although sometimes controversial, the series was always bold in its choices and delivered both epic battles and emotionally-charged moments with equal aplomb. Chiang’s depiction of the pantheon of gods combined with Azzarello’s character-centric plotting provided a take on Wonder Woman that will continue to inspire future stories in all media for years to come.
Batman was both the consistently best-selling series of the New 52 and one of the entire lines most praised titles. There’s little doubt as to why that is and it boils down to just two names: Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. This creative duo has become synonymous with one another and have left a permanent mark on the Batman mythos. Already many of their creations, like the Court of Owls, are appearing in Batman stories on television and in cartoon movies. The epic stories of this run from “Court of Owls” to “Zero Year” to “Endgame” offer fans a wide range of favorite stories to pick from and debate over. Looking back at the New 52, there’s no more obvious success than the one that ran the entire course of its existence: Batman.
1. The Omega Men
The Omega Men #1-12
What makes the best comics series of an entire era? Powerful storytelling. Dramatic use of the comics medium. Consistency in every regard. Quality to remain potent over decades. The Omega Men contains all of these aspects and more. Over the course of 12 issues it told a complete story with a clearly planned beginning, middle, and end. It introduced readers to characters both new and familiar, then made them care for and understand them. It told a story relevant to personal and much larger geopolitical concerns. It was beautifully constructed with each panel chosen and placed with purpose. The Omega Men is a tour de force in modern comics, a powerhouse combination of theme, art, and character. It’s the best series to come out of the New 52 and we’re lucky to have it.
Now it’s your turn to let us know what your favorite comic runs of the New 52 were in the comments below.