Ranking ALL 52 Title of The New 52: A 10th Anniversary Retrospective
August 31, 2011 was a normal day for most of the world. People were jamming to “Party Rock Anthem” and “Moves like Jagger”, People were STILL talking about Ned Stark dying in the finale of “Game of Thrones” first season, and people were going to watch “Rise of The Planet of The Apes”. Over at Marvel, Miles Morales would make his real debut in “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1”. But there was also a weird thing going on in comics: For the first time in decades, only two issues of DC comics came out this week. These weren’t any ordinary comics, however. These were “Flashpoint #5” and “Justice League #1”. These two issues fundamentally changed the nature of the DC Comics universe, and marked the most important moment in comics of the last 15 years: The Birth of the New 52.
The New 52 marked the most radical and large scale attempt to bring new readers into the medium. DC cancelled literally every comic they had, and restarted the entire comic line with 52 #1 issues. The hope was to give new readers a clean starting point to get into comics.
Today marks the 10th anniversary of the New 52, and it felt like a good time to take a look back at the successes and failures of the New 52, what it brought to comics, and how it holds up a decade later. We’ll primarily be focusing on the first year of the New 52, from September 2011 to September 2012. We’ll be looking at the Good, the Meh, and The Bad. This time, we’re going to go in reverse: What didn’t work, what kinda worked, and what absolutely succeeded. This will be followed by my ranking of the 52 New 52 Titles based on the 12 issues that came out during that first year.
For such a large scale, ambitious undertaking, most every failure of the New 52 can be traced back to a single fact: The incredible quickness of the decision to relaunch. There was VERY little heads up about the New 52 relaunch. From what I’ve been able to piece together on twitter and various creator podcasts, with the exception of Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns, both editorial and creative were given no more than two months notice for the relaunch. This meant editorial and creatives only had at MOST two months to decide which titles to create, which creators to make the comic, make up a pitch, accept or decline the pitch, and then write, draw, ink, color, and letter a whole comic in time to get it to the printers and shipped off to comic book shops! For comparison, the Rosenburg run on the X-Men, which lasted about a year, was done specifically to give Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, RB Silva, and Marte Gracia enough time to make the 12 issues “House of X/Powers of X” as successful as possible.
As a result, the first stories of the New 52 were almost all nearly made up on the spot, with no long-term plan. While there were a LOT of very good stories that came out of this mad dash, the titles and stories that DIDN’T work and flopped could have had much stronger debuts if given the average lead in, which is 3–4 months.
In addition to this rush. It’s been commented on that Editorial did NOT let creators talk to each other during the first 8 or so issues, leading to stuff like famed comic creator George Perez not being able to tell his Superman story properly, since he didn’t know what Morisson was planning over in Action Comics, where he was detailing Superman’s new origin story 5 years in the past. As a result, there was a lack of communication across certain comic lines that prevented certain stories or characters from feeling cohesive during the first year of The New 52. That being said, upon discussion with creators, this practice was discontinued by the time the first year of the New 52 was wrapping up.
The other major structural flaw with the New 52 came with continuity. Previously, one of DC’s great advantages over Marvel was a sense of Legacy. There was a history of costumed heroism in the DC universe spanning the 30’s to today, with multiple generations of characters such as Green Lantern and Flash instilling a sense of history and weight to these heroic roles. In order to provide an utterly clean slate, DC made the decision to jettison most of this history.
The New 52 was meant to start fresh at Year One, with characters such as Superman and Batman having only been active at MOST for five years. This want for a clean slate ran into two roadblocks: Geoff Johns Green Lantern Saga and Grant Morrison’s Batman Epic. These two runs are celebrated as among the best comic runs ever, with Grant Morisson’s Batman in particular in regular conversation for the all-time best Batman saga. The issue is that both runs are HIGHLY dependent on the history of major DC events like Crisis on Infinite Earths, Zero Hour, and Final Crisis, none of which would have happened in the New 52. For one simple example, Batman’s 10 year old son, Damian, was Robin at the start of the New 52. Yet Bruce Wayne didn’t meet his mother, Talia al Ghul, until he was already Batman. So if Bruce Wayne has only been Batman for 5 years, how does he have a 10 year old son? In short, you can’t do a full reboot while holding on to the vestiges of Morrison and John’s Batman and Green Lantern, both of which are SO intertwined with DC Continuity. These runs inherently complicated the New 52 and the history of some of DC’s most important characters, and made many long time fans feel like they destroyed much of what made DC comics unique while half assing the fresh start. There are fans who to THIS DAY are still upset about this.
These are the 3 biggest criticisms of the New 52, and moving forward it took DC Comics nearly a full decade to undo every last continuity snafu through events such as Convergence, DC Rebirth, and Death Metal. Ultimately, none of these flaws ended up hurting DC in the long run.
What was Meh
If I had to pick any one thing that was Meh, it’s the handling of Pandora. Pandora, newly introduced in the last pages of Flashpoint #5, and implied to be the cause of the New 52, is meant to be the Pandora of Greek Myth. Throughout the first two years of the New 52, the mystery surrounding Pandora and “The Trinity of Sin” was arguably the central plotline throughout the New 52. This was so hyped up that Pandora was hidden in EVERY FIRST ISSUE of the New 52. All 52 of them!
The problem was that this mystery never really paid off. This story line stayed in the background until July 2013’s Trinity War event. In this, Pandora, along with the other two members of the “Trinity of Sin”, The Phantom Stranger and The Question, recruited the Justice League, the Justice League of America, and The Justice League Dark into uncovering the secret of Pandora’s Box, which is supposed to be the root of all evil.
The climax of the story reveals that Pandora’s box is NOT the root of all evil, but rather the portal to Earth 3, a universe where the moral laws of good and evil are inverted. Therefore, evil is the inherent state of reality, heroes are villains, villains are heroes, vice is celebrated over virtue, etc. This leads into the major DC event “Forever Evil”, which is still one of the best Comic Book Events of all time.
Following Forever Evil, however, Pandora’s plot thread, again, ostensibly THE central plot thread of the New 52, is unceremoniously dropped, and Pandora herself disappears until DC Rebirth, where she shows up only to be murdered by Dr. Manhattan, who is retconned as the REAL reason for the New 52 reboot, 5 years after the fact.
While some wonderful stories came out of this mystery, especially Forever Evil, this plot line ended up being an unsatisfying long term mystery that was abandoned in favor of a DC/Watchmen crossover that was resolved in December 2019, nearly a decade after the start of this plot.
This plot is indicative of what happens when, as we talked about earlier, editorial and creatives are given VERY little time to create a plot. Something similar happened to the linewide mystery surrounding Helspont and the Daemonites that ultimately was dropped. Good came out of it, but ultimately not AS strong as it could have been!
The good news is, a LOT of things went right during the New 52.
DC, when relaunching, did their utmost to try and make sure they weren’t making superhero comics. In the 52 titles included War comics, Sci-Fi comics, Horror comics, Noirs, and more! This attempt, while not fully successful, set a precedent for both DC and Marvel comics to spend the next decade making significant investments in diversifying the types of comics, TV, Film, and games they made. Movies such as “Joker” and shows like “Lucifer” wouldn’t be around if not for this push.
In addition, there was a real push for books with LGBT, Black, Asian, Latino Leads. Batwoman remained the marquee and most important LGBT title not just at DC, but in all of comics during the New 52. Almost every team book was retooled to include LGBT and minority representation. Queer plots were most notably followed in titles like Demon Knights, Stormwatch, and Teen Titans. Cyborg, fresh from the Teen Titans cartoon, was upgraded from a founding Titan to a founding member of the Justice League. In addition, popular characters from comics and films were given opportunities to lead their own titles in books like Static Shock, Blue Beetle, and Voodoo. Some of these books succeeded and others floundered, but no one can say DC didn’t make a real effort to give marginalized characters a greater role in the DC universe. Nowadays, the percentage of minority and queer led comics has drastically increased not just at DC, but across all of comics.
Finally, This is speaking from a strictly brand point of view, but I think absolutely the most important characters and flagship title of DC comics (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Justice League) all had A-List creative teams creating genuinely great runs. As much as the New 52 attempted to make space and audiences for underrated characters, if their most important characters and titles are failing, then it’s inevitable the rest will fail. Instead, DC had a minor miracle that these rushed pitches created 7 well regarded comic book runs, several of which are considered all-time greats!
Now that we’ve looked at what worked and what didn’t during the New 52 Launch, let’s take a look at the titles themselves! I’ll be ranking the books from 52 to 1, with a brief review of the title and why it landed in the spot it did. This ranking reflects the first 12 issues of each title, from September 2011 to September 2012. I’ll then go into a brief history of the book through the rest of the new 52
52 is Hawk and Dove, by Sterling Gates and Rob Liefeld. This book is easily the worst of the bunch. Rob Liefeld and Sterling Gates have both made good comics, and Rob clearly likes Hawk and Dove and does his best to try and make something interesting, but it just doesn’t work. The art-led, action heavy style feels 20 years old, and digital coloring does NOT do Liefeld’s linework favors. This book was cancelled after 8 issues.
51 is Green Arrow, by JT Krul, Keith Giffen, Ann Nocenti, Harvey Tolibao, and Dan Jurgens. As you can see, there are a LOT of hands on this title, and believe it or not, there’s not a lot of tonal inconsistency. Instead, everyone is focused on an action heavy book featuring a young and brash Green Arrow who is still a spoiled billionaire playboy. While the book does have an interesting concept tracing Ollie’s origins into the more mature, populist, and progressive hero he’s known to be, it’s just NOT fun. While Green Arrow floundered Year One, 2012 would bring the Arrow TV show that would spark the decade long CWVerse and Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino would take over the title at Issue 13 to create what is considered one of the absolute best comics of the New 52. This run would be followed by Ben Sokolowski, Andrew Kreisburg, and Daniel Sampere taking over at issue 35. At Issue 41, Benjamin Percy, Patch Zircher, and Simon Kurdrsky would lead the title, seeing it through to the final issue 52 before the DC Rebirth relaunch. This is the first of our titles to make it to all 52 issues.
50 is Resurrection Man by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Jesus Saiz and Fernando Dagnino. Resurrection Man is a VERY interesting concept, a character with healing abilities who gains a new power every time he is resurrected from the dead. All the creators are also involved with many incredible runs. Unfortunately, this book just doesn’t gel or feel interesting beyond the premise, and so the book feels like it’s spinning wheels instead of telling a story. Resurrection Man was cancelled after 12 issues
49 is Grifter by Nathan Edmonson, Carlos Urbano, Frank Tieri, and Rob Liefeld. Grifter is a fan favorite character from the Wildstorm Universe, here given a fresh start in the DC universe. There are a lot of good concepts here: Helspont and the Daemonites are given prominence not just in Grifter, but other titles including Voodoo and Superman! Grifter is pivotal to the early years of the New 52, and is given an important role. Unfortunately, this never plays out as well in the execution. Action comic veterans Frank Tieri and Rob Liefeld were brought onto the book to try and salvage sales, but ultimately the book was cancelled after 16 issues.
48 is The Savage Hawkman by Tony Daniel, Philip Tan, Rob Liefeld, Tom DeFalco, and Joe Bennett. Hawkman is a NOTORIOUSLY difficult character to make work due to his byzantine continuity, lack of appreciable fanbase, and conflicting media representations. If any character could benefit from a clean slate, it was Hawkman. To Daniel and Tan’s Credit, recasting him as an Indiana Jones type character hunting the dangerous mythical and ancient artifacts of the DC universe is a REALLY good hook. Philip Tan also used a more watercolor style of coloring that complimented his pencils a lot more than traditional digital coloring. Unfortunately, the book just didn’t land with audiences, and Liefeld was brought onto the title to try and salvage sales. While the book lasted a bit longer, it was ultimately cancelled after 20 issues, and Hawkman was moved to the Justice League, where he thrived more strongly as an ensemble character.
47 is Green Lantern: New Guardians by Tony Bedard and Tyler Kirkham. This book was led by Kyle Rayner, who works with a leader of each of the 7 Lantern Corps to solve a murder mystery that implicated Kyle as the culprit to all 7 Lantern Corps! The real problem is that this year felt like it was treading water until Geoff Johns wrapped up his Lantern epic in Rise of the Third Army and Wrath of The First Lantern. Until then, you get some very meat and potatoes superhero action stories. Nothing inherently bad, but nothing to write home about, especially when the other Lantern Titles are doing better stuff. Green Lantern: New Guardians would last for 40 issues, with Justin Jordan writing issues 21 through 40.
46 is Mister Terrific by Eric Wallace and Gianluca Gugliotta. Mister Terrific is a wonderful character that was long overdue for a solo series. Wallace and Gugliotta do good character work examining what makes him tick and why he WANTS to be a hero. This book unfortunately just didn’t connect with fans, and was also subject to multiple plot threads surrounding Power Girl and Earth 2. Ultimately, the title was cancelled after 8 issues, and Mister Terrific found a home as a player in the events of Earth 2.
45 is Legion of Super-Heroes by Paul Levitz and Frances Portela. There is actually nothing at all wrong or bad with Legion, but it ranks lower for a very specific reason: it takes place largely outside the New 52 continuity. Instead, the Legion is reeling from the cosmic aftereffects of Flashpoint causing timequakes and stuff. As a result, Legion feels VERY disconnected from the rest of the New 52, confuses continuity points, and ultimately is self-contained. This title lasted for two years before being cancelled at issue 24.
44 is Deathstroke by Kyle Higgins, Joe Bennet, Eduardo Pansisca, and Rob Liefeld. Remember how Slade was a huge fan favorite character who had a breakout moment in the Teen Titans cartoon and was long overdue for another shot at a title? And then remember how they squandered it with a basic “grim n edgy” assassin title that stripped out many of the best character traits of deathstroke? Higgins Deathstroke was so unpopular that they brought on Rob Liefeld to salvage the title, but it was ultimately cancelled after 20 issues.
43 is Catwoman by Judd Winick and Guillem March. Catwoman’s first issue is where the infamous “The Costumes Stay On” image is from. The first year had Winick and March see Catwoman go through the gauntlet in the Gotham criminal underworld, trying to carve out her niche as a thief. While there is a compelling story in these issues, March’s art and cheesecake with Catwoman has not aged as tastefully as some other books of the era, leaning into exploitative every so often. Of course, Catwoman is supposed to be a sex positive character and alluring, but here it fails to find the balance between seductive and pornographic. There’s also a bit too much brutality. I use brutality instead of violence or action because there are plenty of scenes where Catwoman is kicking ass and holding her own in fights, but there is more than one scene where women, including Catwoman herself are beaten for the sake of being victimized. This run on Catwoman would be followed by Ann Nocenti’s infamous run, before Genevieve Valentine’s celebrated Catwoman saga rehabilitates the title. Finally, this volume is wrapped up with Frank Tieri. Catwoman is the second of these titles to last the full 52 issues of the New 52.
42 is Justice League International by Dan Jurgens, Aaron Lopresti, and Matt Ryan. Justice League International is a simple basic, “Superheroes saving the world and getting to know each other better” book. Many fan favorites such as Booster Gold, Guy Gardner, and Ice are on this team. The first story, Signal Masters, is a lot of fun! Unfortunately, after this arc, many of the team is killed and injured in a bombing, and the latter half of the book becomes a dour rumination on the victims left in the wake of superheroics, before the team is utterly dismantled in the concluding Annual issue. Booster Gold literally disappears after seeing Wonder Woman and Superman kiss and is not seen again for years, with very little thought going into his plot. He would not be seen again until 2014’s Future’s End storyline.
41 is Superman by George Perez, Jesus Marino, Nicola Scott, Keith Giffen, and Dan Jurgens. Superman as a title is a completely standard Superman title as you’d expect from the likes of veterans like Perez and Jurgens. As mentioned earlier, the real issue with this title is that it’s constrained by the events of Action Comics, and so the title can never really take the creative swings it wants to during the first year of the New 52. Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocaforth would take over for Issues 13 through 25, where Lobdell gets to tell more interesting, if melodramatic science fiction stories. Kenneth is replaced by Ed Benes through issue 31, where Lobdell finally leaves as well. After this, Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr take over at issue 32 and Johns stays on through issue 39. Romita Jr stays on art through issue 44. Finally Gene Luen Yang wraps up the series form Issue 40 to 52. This series is the third to last the full 52 issues.
40 is Legion Lost by Fabian Nicieza, Tom DeFalco and Peter Woods. This series focuses on members of the Legion of Superheroes stranded in the New 52. This book would be HEAVILY tied into the plots of Teen Titans and Superboy, ultimately culminating in “The Culling” crossover storyline, and launching The Ravagers. After this, the Legion returns to the future, where a few more stories happen until the book is cancelled at issue 16. This series is another bread and butter superhero series, with nothing particularly remarkable to recommend about it.
39 is Red Lanterns by Peter Milligan and Ed Benes. While undeniably well drawn and competently written, Red Lanterns feels like a bygone relic of the “grim and edgy” era of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, and does not take advantage of interesting characters such as Atrocitus and Dex-Starr. Instead, it’s highly focused on the angst and ennui of being a Red Lantern. After the first year, Issue 13 sees Miguel Sepulveda take over the art and give the book a distinctive stylized edginess that works. Where the book really takes off, however, is Issue 21, where Charles Soule and Allessandro Vitti have Guy Gardner take over as the lead of the book, and turn Red Lanterns into a fan favorite action-comedy book. Landry Q Walker would take over for the last 3 issues before ultimately ending at Issue 40.
38 is DC Universe Presents. This is a showcase title, where C and D list characters are given story arcs to hopefully launch them into greater popularity. While the initial Deadman arc is a great success, the subsequent Challengers of The Unknown and Vandal Savage arcs are less so. The book has two more arcs featuring team ups between Black Lightning and Blue Devil and Starfire and Arsenal before being cancelled at 19 issues.
37 is Blackhawks by Mike Costa and Ken Lashley. This title sees one of the best World War II era aviator comics transformed into a 21st Century GI Joe style sci-fi unit. It’s a lot of fun, but unfortunately does not find an audience, and is cancelled after 8 issues and a single story arc.
36 is The Fury of Firestorm by Evan Van Sciver, Gail Simone, and Yildiray Cinar. Firestorm is a fan favorite character given another chance here, co led by Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond. Here, the jock and the nerd have to get along to become Firestorm, who with the power to manipulate atoms is one of the most powerful superheroes ever. This book, while a strong premise, was unfortunately hampered by several real life tragedies that befell the creators during this time, as well as a plot that didn’t execute as well as they’d hoped. Ultimately, Dan Jurgens would take over before the book was cancelled at issue 20.
35 is Static Shock by Scott McDaniel, John Rozum and Marc Bernadin. This was Static’s first comic following the hit cartoon that ran in the early 2000’s. Unfortunately, this book was hampered by editorial, failed to find the audience it needed, and was cancelled after 8 issues. Static would not appear again in a comic until June 2021, where Vita Ayala and CrissCross relaunched the character in the revitalized Milestone imprint. Thankfully, this series is firing on all cylinders.
34 is Batman: The Dark Knight by David Finch, Gregg Hurwitz and Paul Jenkins. This was one of 4 New 52 Titles headlined by Batman, and one of the weaker two. The Dark Knight differentiated itself by being an artists’ showcase, focused on superstar artists drawing cool Batman stuff. While there is a LOT of that, the plots tend to be on the weaker side, wasting the talents of superstar artists to an extent. David Finch would be the featured artist for Issues 1 through 15, followed by Ethan Van Sciver and Simon Kudranski for issues 16 through 21. Next, Alex Maleev takes over for issues 22 through 25, followed by Alberto Ponticelli and EVS one more time before the title was cancelled at issue 29. Lots of great art, lots of meh plots.
33 is Suicide Squad by Adam Glass, Frederico Dallochio, and Fernando Dagnino. This run would be highly influential on both the 2016 and 2021 Suicide Squad films, with the cast of both largely coming from this lineup, most notably Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Deadshot, and King Shark. This is a great book showcasing the lovable supervillains of the DC Universe being put in increasingly ridiculous positions. While the first two arcs are great, this placement is more a reflection of how BAD the third arc of the first year is, with some borderline racist caricatures of Mestizo and indigenous Americans. Thankfully, the book quickly recovers from that, and goes back to being a VERY solid book. Ales Kot and Patrick Zircher take over at issue 20, and continue on until the book ends at issue 30. The book is then relaunched as “New Suicide Squad” in the wake of Forever Evil, and lasts until DC Rebirth. Therefore, though cancelled at issue 30, this is technically the fourth series to last all 52 issues.
32 is Blue Beetle by Tony Bedard and Ig Guara. Blue Beetle is a fan favorite character based out of El Paso, and has become one of DC’s most successful Teen and Latino heroes of the 21st century. This reboot retells his origin, updating it for the current continuity. Unfortunately, this book ultimately had poor sales and was cancelled at Issue 16. Thankfully, creators love Jaime Reyes and make sure he continues to guest star in books and join Justice League and Teen Titans lineups, so he is never too far removed from the big DC stories.
31 is Birds of Prey by Duane Swierczynski and Jesus Saiz. This book began Poison Ivy’s rehabilitation, and stars other fan favorites like Black Canary, Katana, and Batgirl. This book also created a brand new character in Starling. While the book is generally solid during this first year, it is ultimately nothing special either, mostly thriving off the interesting character work with Black Canary, Batgirl, and Poison Ivy. Unfortunately, after the first year, this book REALLY goes off the rails in a way I don’t think any other book does, seeing Katana, Poison Ivy, and Starling leave or betray the team, leaving Black Canary and Batgirl to hold up the title. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of Christy Marx and Robson Rocha, including introducing an interesting mute Talon named Stryx, the book was cancelled after 34 issues.
30 is Stormwatch by Paul Cornell, Peter Milligan and Miguel Sepulveda. Stormwatch was the premier superteam of the Wildstorm universe, and the New 52 does its’ absolute best to make them a vital and pivotal part of the DC Universe. This includes things such as making founding Justice League member Martian Manhunter a leading member of the team, placing fan favorites Midnighter and Apollo onto the team, making Stormwatch direct successors to the Demon Knights, and having them as a counterculture rival to the Justice League. The first year of the title really leans into the superspy british weirdness of the title to great success. While not a standout title, it is consistently interesting. Unfortunately, following the main story wrapping up at issue 18, cosmic comic legend Jim Starlin takes over the title, and reboots the entire team by replacing them with pre-new 52 counterparts, essentially making the previous 18 issues utterly pointless. This sucked both narrative and fan interest in the title, and ultimately caused the book’s cancellation at issue 30, where the retcon is itself retconned, making issues 19–29 utterly pointless. This is one of the biggest tragedies of the New 52, and Stormwatch had TONS of potential utterly ruined by bizarre creative decisions.
29 is Men At War by Ivan Brandon and Tom Derenick. This is a straightforward 21st Century war title for the Call of Duty Crowd. It successfully does this, telling a particularly strong war story, but the book absolutely flounders sales wise and is cancelled at issue 8.
28 is Teen Titans by Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth. This book is the ultimate mixed bag. The team lineup looked very little like the iconic team OR the team from the famous Cartoon. Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth are both creators from the 90’s writing teen books in the 2010’s, with some troubling continued sexualization of the teenage Wonder Girl and Superboy. With the Exception of Tim Drake, Red Robin’s costume, most of the costumes felt far too busy. That being said, there were some great additions, most notably Bunker, a queer Mexican teen with powerhouse psionic abilities and boundless optimism informed by his devout Catholicism. The first year had an interesting “getting the team together” story, culminating in “The Culling Crossover.” Unfortunately, this climax does not live up to the build up. Lobdell and Eddy Barrows would carry the book after issue 12 until the book was ended at Issue 30 at the end of Forever Evil. Teen Titans would be immediately relaunched as Teen Titans #1. This book lasted all the way to DC Rebirth, the fifth of our titles to last all the way through the New 52.
27 is Captain Atom by JT Krul and Freddie Berganza II. In one of the more interesting creative choices of the New 52, Captain Atom is recast from a military Man with the power of Superman to a character much more similar to Dr. Manhattan, who was based on Captain Atom. Here, Captain Atom is dealing with his expanding consciousness and godlike powers, experiencing time and reality in nonlinear fashions. It’s a bold choice that results in a pretty interesting series, but one that ultimately failed to find an audience. The book was cancelled at issue 12, after finishing off the story it was telling.
26 is I, Vampire by Joshua Falkov and Andrea Sorrentino. This was a really interesting book starring Andrew Bennett, one of the oldest vampires in existence, taking on a Blade-Like role of vampire slayer. The twist was his archenemy was the Cult of the Blood Red Moon, led by Mary, Queen of Blood, his centuries long lover, whom Andrew himself had turned into a Vampire. This mixture of hardcore horror, romance, and history created a vampire lore utterly unique to DC Comics, one that weaved with the other denizens of DC’s mystic side, including Etrigan the Demon and John Constantine. Dennis Calero would take over art duties at issue 15 until the book’s Cancellation at issue 19. This is an underrated book that any vampire fan should find a blast to read.
25 is Batwing by Judd Winick, Ben Oliver, and Marcus To. This book starred David Zavimbe, a member of Batman Incorporated and a policeman in the Democratic Republic of Congo, hunting down a superhero serial killer targeting his Alfred, Matu. This book had utterly gorgeous art by Oliver and To, which elevated a relatively standard script by Winick. Following the first year, Fabian Nicieza and Allan Jefferson take over the book, where it flounders until issue 19, where due to the trauma he’s seen as a superhero, David retires. From issue 20 on, Batwing is led by Luke Fox, son of Lucius Fox, until the book’s cancellation at issue 34.
24 is Red Hood and The Outlaws by Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort. This is the series with the infamous first issue casting Starfire as amnesiac borderline sex addict who hooks up with both Red Hood and Aresenal before’s issue’s end. This troubling and sexist portrayal is done away with by the end of the first year, as Starfire’s backstory is explained. The rest of the 12 issues detail what happened to Jason Todd between resurrection and his return to the Batfamily, as a member of the mystical All-Caste. While the plot is nothing special, what really sells this series during the first year is Kenneth Rocaforth’s incredible art and panel layouts. This team would stay together until issue 14, where Timothy Green II would take over. Starting with issue 19, James Tynion IV and Julius Gopez take over until issue 30, where Scott Lobdell returns with RB Silva until the book’s ending at Issue 40. After Issue 40, the book would be relaunched as Red Hood/Arsenal, which would last until DC Rebirth, making it our sixth title to make it all the way through the New 52.
23 is Detective Comics by Tony Daniel and Ryan Winn, one of the 4 books starring Batman. This is the book most concerned with Batman fighting his non-superpowered foes, with the first year and a half of the comic exclusively dealing with Bruce Wayne and Batman trying to uncover a means of arresting Penguin and his criminal empire. This is the book where Bruce is a billionaire playboy, the GCPD is heavily involved, and crime families conspire against each other. Tony Daniel and Ryan Winn both give incredible artistic performances that elevate relatively standard Batman tales, really delighting in the visual grey and blues of Gotham. Starting with Issue 13, John Layman and Jason Fabok would take over creative duties until issue 30, where Francis Manupal, Brian Buccalletto, and Fernando Blanco took charge until Issue 45. Peter Tomasi would write the book from 46 until Issue 52. This is our seventh Book to last all the way through the New 52
22 is Voodoo by Ron Marz, Joshua Williamson, and Sami Brisi. This is X-Files, DC Comics, and Star Trek all rolled into one. Priscilla Kitlean is a person on the run, but she doesn’t know from what. As we follow her, we follow a massive web of conspiracy as humanity is invaded by the Daemonites. Voodoo’s response is intriguing and you never know which way she’ll go. This series failed to find an audience however, and was canceled at issue 12. In retrospect, this series is harmed by the fact that the central mystery was completely dropped the very next month.
21 is Superboy by Scott Lobdell and RB Silva. This is a series that surprised me during my read through of the New 52. I had initially avoided it as a kid, and here we see a great mix of DC and Wildstorm continuity as Superboy is constructed as a Clone of Lex Luthor and Superman as a countermeasure against Superman. While Lobdell instills an interesting voice in Superboy, the real star here is RB Silva, who is already showing why he’ll become a comic superstar in later years. This first year culminates in “The Culling”, of which Superboy’s arc is EASILY the most interesting part of the story. Tom Defalco, Tony Lee, Iban Coello, Justin Jordan and more would make up a rotating cast of creators that would cause the book to lose focus and drop in quality after the first year, but MAN that first year was strong. The book was cancelled at Issue 34.
20 is Batgirl by Gail Simone and Adrian Syfe. Batgirl was far and away the most controversial book in the New 52 lineup. Following the Killing Joke, Barbara Gordon became Oracle, the main information broker of the DC universe and easily the most high-profile disabled character at DC. The New 52 took the opportunity to “correct” her being paraplegic, leading to many valid criticisms surrounding ableism, representation of the disabled, legacy characters, and more. Despite these valid and public criticisms, Gail Simone made the absolute best out of a Bad Situation, rebuilding Barbara’s practical skills as a superhero, showcasing her forensic abilities, introducing major queer supporting characters, including one of the first trans characters to be a lead character in a major comic book, and creating a series of intriguing rogues unique to Barbara. Following the first year, Gail Simone remained as lead writer until issue 35, where Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr gave Batgirl a much celebrated redesign and millennial inspired vibe. I would be remiss however to not mention Cameron Stewart is the subject of numerous sexual misconduct allegations, including with teenagers. Batgirl lasted the full 52 issues, making it our Eighth series to last all the New 52
19 is Supergirl by Michael Green, Mike Johnson, and Mahmud Asrar. Mahmud Asrar became a superstar with his utterly sublime work on Supergirl. Here we get a very different take on Supergirl, as a refugee on Earth, full of mourning for her lost culture and people, and feeling alien even to her more famous cousin. The first year of the title sees Kara Zor-El meet earthlings, Superman, and college culture for the first time. The story with the Silver Banshee is particularly charming. While Green and Johnson do a great job creating balance between rage, sorrow, and bravery in Kara, the real spotlight here is Mahmud Asrar’s art. Following this, Asrar became a top 5 comic artist with both DC and Marvel, producing some of the most famous comics of the 2010’s and 2020’s. Following the first year, the first creative team stays on until issue 19, where Mike Allen Nelson takes over until issue 26, where Tony Bedard became lead writer. Tony would stay on until issue 35, where Katie Perkins would write the book until the book was cancelled in issue 40.
18 is Nightwing by Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows. Here, we see Dick Grayson, one of my favorite characters, reconnect with his circus roots in a murder mystery that strikes a great balance between romance, mystery, and high flying acrobatics. Followed by this, Dick has probably the biggest expansion to his mythos in the Court of Owls, which ties him directly to the villains. While I’m not a fan of the red and black, it’s undeniable this book does a great job showcasing a young Nightwing and why he’s the heart and soul of the Batfamily. Kyle Higgins would remain lead writer with Brett Booth as artists for the book until Issue 30, when the book was cancelled due to Nightwing’s major role in Forever Evil. The cook was relaunched as Grayson, one of most celebrated New 52 titles, by Tom King, Tim Seeley, and Mikel Janin. This is our ninth book to last all the way through the New 52
17 is Frankenstein: AGENT of Shade by Jeff Lemire, Matt Knidt and Alberto Ponticelli. Of all the books that I read during this New 52 research, this was the best surprise for me. DC’s version of Frankenstein is among my favorites. Here, Frankenstein is a erudite warrior-poet, leading the classic horror monsters as a black ops team through the strange and mysterious and mystical of the DC Universe. They explore different dimensions, sentient cities, vampire apocalypses, and more. This is an incredibly comic booky comic, and I mean that as the highest compliment. Sadly, fans never really found the series, and the book was cancelled at issue 16, concluding with the celebrated Rotworld event.
16 is Green Lantern, by Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke. Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern is arguably the all-time best Green Lantern run. So why is it ranked 16? It’s just a matter of timing. After seminal stories such as the Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night, 2011–2012 featured three stories: Sinestro, Secret of The Indigo Tribe, and the Return of Black Hand, all of which served as a year long setup to the finale of John’s Run, Rise of The Third Army and Wrath of the First Lantern in issues 13–20. That being said, even a set up year for Johns remains one of the best month to month reading experiences in comics history. Following the Johns epic, Robert Venditti and Philip Tan take over all the way through Issue 52, doing very interesting work with the nature of Hal Jordan’s powers, the new character Relic, and the New Gods. Green Lantern marks our 10th book to make it through the New 52
15 is OMAC, by Keith Giffen and Dan Didio. OMAC was the least successful title of the New 52 saleswise, which is a shame because OMAC is a wonderful throwback to the glory days of Jack Kirby as Keith Giffen gives his best artistic impression of the King, weaving a wonderful new tale with the new One Man Army Corps, Kevin Kho. This book was quickly cancelled after 8 issues, and Kevin Cho’s version of OMAC was largely lost to the ages, only sporadically appearing.
14 is The Flash by Francis Manupal and Brian Buccalatto. This particular run is the primary inspiration for the incredibly successful CW Flash TV show. Barry Allen is a forensic scientist and the biggest hero of the Key Cities, working with friends like Patty Spivot and Iris West to protect the city from the various threats like Gorilla Grodd, Captain Cold, Mirror Master, and the Reverse Flash. There’s wonderful romance, fun villains, cool superpowers, and of course, Francis Manupaul’s incredible paneling and double spreads. I think this book is exactly what people think of when people think “comic book”, and that is the highest compliment to be paid to a book like the Flash. Manupaul and Buccaletto would craft a 25 issue run, after which Patch Zircher joined Buccletto until issue 29. With issue 30, Robert Vendetti and Brett Booth would craft a much less interesting run until issue 50. The last 3 issues are by Van Jensen and Jesus Merino. Flash is the eleventh series to make it through the New 52.
13 is Batwoman by JH Williams the III and W Haden Blackman. This is a continuation of the run that started earlier in 2011. This is a major milestone for both panel composition artistically and queer representation in comics. The relationship between Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer is the heart and soul of the series as mysterious and macabre new menaces haunt Gotham, including a wonderful iteration on La Llorona. Williams and Blackman would create a powerful and celebrated run that remains one of the most talked about of the 2010’s. WIlliams and Blackman would continue their run until issue 25, where Marc Andreyko and Jeremy Huan take over creative duties until the book was cancelled at issue 40
12 is Justice League by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. Justice League was the flagship title of the New 52, and it started with the Origin Story of the Justice League, watching the league come together to stop the invasion of Darkseid. It is complete and utter action superheroics made by the two of the very best creators in comic history. After this stellar action opening, which would become the basis of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a less entertaining but still solid story arc, Villains Journey, would finish up the year. Seminal stories such as The Throne of Atlantis, Forever Evil, and the Darkseid War would take Geoff Johns through an epic that kept the Justice League at the core of the DC Universe. Jim Lee was succeeded by Doug Mahnke, Ivan Reis, Jason Fabok, and Johns’ Run would conclude with Issue 50, with a brief story by Dan Abnett allowing Justice League to become our twelfth series to get through the full New 52.
11 is Demon Knights by Paul Cornell and Diogenes Neves. Demon Knights was one of the absolute best new ideas to come out of the New 52. Here, sword and sorcery takes the forefront as Etrigan the Demon, Madame Xanadu, Vandal Savage, and The Shining Knight fight otherworldly forces in order to save humanity. Dinosaurs, Vikings, Demons, Merlins and Morgan Le Fays, and Djinns populate this series. Paul Cornell would tell the first 15 issues of this story, with Robert Venditti writing the series until its’ conclusion at issue 23. This is a great story redefining the middle ages of the DC Universe, with consequences playing into Justice League Dark, Stormwatch, Constantine, and more. This series, while brief, remains fondly remembered as a highlight of the New 52.
10 is All-Star Western by Jimmy Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Moritat. The late 2000’s saw a renaissance with the character of Jonah Hex and the Wild West of the DC Universe. The New 52 gave even more chances to create interesting additions, with Jonah Hex arriving in 19th century Gotham and forming the ultimate Odd Couple with Amadeus Arkham, the founder of the infamous Arkham Asylum. We see them fight monsters, robber barons, desperados, and more throughout the history of DC comics. The series is easily among the most fun of the New 52. It was incredibly supported by the DC comics editorial, managing a phenomenal 34 issues despite low sales, with artists like Cliff Richards and the Late, Great Darwynn Cooke also assisting on art. This is one of the absolute highlight titles of the New 52, and one of the most underappreciated series ever put out by DC Comics
9 is Green Lantern Corps by Peter Tomasi and Fernando Passarin. Here, Guy Gardner and John Stewart lead the many great supporting members of the Green Lantern Corps on various missions to protect the universe. What really makes this title excel is the wonderful ensemble of the Green Lanterns, such as Isamot, Soranik Natu, Kilowog, and Salaak. Where Johns’ Green Lantern faltered, GLC provided the high flying and epic space adventures fans wanted. Tomasi would write the first 20 issues, until Van Jensen, Robert Venditti, and Berard Chang would create the comic until cancellation at issue 40.
8 is Animal Man by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman. This was the brother title to Swamp Thing, and the one I preferred slightly less. Here, Buddy Baker explores the role of Avatar of the Red, the flesh, bone, and animal counterpart to the personification of vegetation, the Green. This is first and foremost a major horror comic, full of incredibly off putting images, and expanding the lore of DC’s cosmology. What works the most, however, is exploring Animal Man’s role as a husband and father, as he desperately tries to defend his children from the otherworldly horrors chasing them. This would ultimately come to a head in the incredibly celebrated Rotworld crossover. This is one of the all time great series in the new 52. Jeff Lemire would be joined by Steve Pugh in issue 19, and finally Rafael Alberquerqe until the series’ cancellation at issue 29.
7 is Swamp Thing by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette. A great blend of DC Superheroics and the wonderful mysticism and character studies that Alan Moore created in the 80’s. Here, we see the beautiful love story between Alec Holland and Abigail Arcane, set to the strange and otherworldly realm of the Parliament of the Green, the Red, and The Rot. This would culminate in the Animal Man action-horror crossover, Rotworld, widely considered among the best New 52 stories. Following Snyder and Paquette’s departure in issue 18, Charles Soule, Kano and Jesus Saiz would create another celebrated run, widely expanding the cosmology of the DC Universe until the title’s cancellation with issue 40. Swamp Thing was consistently among the best of the New 52, and is easily in the top 5 in terms of consistent year after year quality.
6 is Justice League Dark by Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin. This book was an attempt to give the magic side of the DC Universe a chance to thrive through branding it with the Justice League moniker. While I still argue the title is silly to use in-universe, there’s no denying it made the book a huge surprise hit! That being said, characters like Zatanna, Deadman, and John Constantine have remained fan favorites for a reason. Moving forward, Justice League Dark would remain a staple franchise within the DC Universe, spawning several movies and TV shows. After the first 7 issues, Peter Milligan would be replaced by Jeff Lemire, while Mikel Janin stayed on art. They would remain the creative team until issue 23, where JM DeMatteis would plot until the book’s cancellation at issue 40.
5 is Aquaman by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis. Aquaman was a gigantic success that revitalized the character’s popularity and provided the inspiration for multiple movies, most notably 2018’s billion dollar smash hit Aquaman, starring Jason Momoa and Amber Heard. Under Ivan Reis’s Pencil, the world of Aquaman was turned into the best adventure series at either Marvel or DC, taking the best elements of Indiana Jones, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, and Game of Thrones. Stories such as The Trench and The Throne of Atlantis would enter the pantheon of all-time great Aquaman stories. Johns and Reis would remain on the title until issue 26, when Jeff Parker and Paul Pelleteir would take the book in a more Edgar Rice Bourroughs direction until issue 40. Cullen Bunn and Trevor McCarthy would write and draw from issue 41 to 48, and Dan Abnett and Brett Booth would see the series to issue 52, the 13th of our series to make it all the way through the New 52.
4 is Batman and Robin, the 3rd of 4 books to star Batman. It’s incredible that between the widely celebrated runs of Grant Morisson and Scott Snyder on Batman, Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason managed to squeeze a third highly respected run contemporaneously. Batman and Robin was the first comic to have Bruce and his son Damian Wayne actually star in a book together. Until now, Damian had been the Robin to Dick Grayson, the very first Robin, who was filling in as Batman for Bruce. The First Year of Batman and Robin would feature the Born to Kill story, where Damian struggles with his assassin upbringing against Nobody, an old friend of Batman’s who had become a bloodthirsty assassin. This was followed by a fan favorite story where Damian sets out to prove himself against his adopted brothers, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake. This strong first year of Batman and Robin would be followed by Death of the Family, the incredibly well received Requiem storyline, The Big Burn, and Robin Rises. Tomasi and Gleason would remain the sole creative team for all 40 issues. While the other Batmen books were focused on crazy stories or mega events, Batman and Robin was strictly focused on strong character work with the various members of the Bat Family.
3 is Action Comics by Grant Morisson and Rags Morales. Action Comics is Morisson’s wonderful reimagining of the early days of Superman, returning him to his populist trust busting roots. Here, 5th dimensional eldritch imps, Hypercollective Intellectual parasites, Nega-Supermen, and Leagues of Supermen Haters provide the backdrop for a coming of age tale for the greatest superhero of them all. The Morrison saga would last until issue 18. Following this epic origin, Andy Diggle and Tony Daniel would do a brief story before Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder would begin their fan favorite run from issue 25 to issue 50, with Peter Tomasi doing the final story bringing Action Comics to issue 52, the 14th series to last the full era.
2 is Wonder Woman by Brian Azarello and Cliff Chiang. Wonder Woman is the highest profile character to receive a RADICAL reinvention in the New 52. While longtime Wonder Woman fans rankled at these mythos changes, it didn’t matter due to the sheer positivity generated by critics and sales figures. The basic premise is Zeus has abdicated the throne, leading the remaining Olympians to engage in an open war of succession, while Wonder Woman and a motley crew of allies must protect the last son of Zeus from the various factions looking to use the baby to their own political ends. This run of Wonder Woman takes heavy tonal inspiration from Game of Thrones, but adds in many great twists to the formula, most notably Cliff Chiang’s incredible redesigns of the Olympians, each of whom feels distinct to any portrayal in other media and exciting players in the DC universe. Azarello and Chiang’s epic would span 35 issues. Following this, Meredith and David Finch would take over with issue 36 until issue 52, making this series the 15th to last all the New 52.
1 is Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. While I personally prefer Grant Morisson’s Batman saga, which serves as HEAVY inspiration to this one, there is no denying Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo created the most popular and best selling Batman saga of the 21st century. The first Year of Batman is spent on the now classic Court of Owls saga, which has already been adapted to numerous movies, tv shows, and video games. Snyder and Capullo would follow this up with Death of The Family. The Zero Year Trilogy, Endgame, and the Bloom saga, all of which would be huge hits, taking all 52 issues, and making Batman the 16th and final series to last the entire New 52.
While 16 of 52 seems like a poor track record to last for 52 issues, in the modern comics market that is in fact an enormous success!
The New 52 would officially end in May 2016 with DC Rebirth, and the physical moving of DC Comics from New York City to Anaheim, California. Rebirth would be another major success for DC comics. 10 years on, The New 52 managed to be a major sales success, revitalized DC for years to come, and most importantly, brought on many new readers, some of whom become lifelong readers. While by no means a perfect relaunch I think it’s undeniable that the New 52 got far more right than it did wrong, ultimately making it a success. Thanks for the great stories.
Christian Thrailkill is a graduate of Southern Methodist University, Graduate Student at University of North Texas, musician, and columnist. He lives in Dallas, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @Wolvie616