Come Saturday morning, all will be revealed about DC Comics’ new plan for their main hero universe with the live streamed #Rebirth announcements at Wonder Con at 9am PT. The New 52 had its ups and downs, but before it can all be reborn, let’s look back at the best of the best over the course of the last five years. Counted down from 20 to 1 in four days, here are more of the top classic runs DC Comics given us since September 2011!
Written by Tim Seeley and Tom King
Art by Mikel Janin and Jeromy Cox
In the wake of the Crime Syndicate of Amerika’s attack on the super-heroes in Forever Evil, Dick Grayson’s heroic identity as Nightwing is trashed and he dies (and is subsequently revived) at the hands of Lex Luthor. Rather than return to the “living,” Grayson goes undercover on behalf of the Batman to infiltrate the mysterious agency run by Kathy Kane known as Spyral. Now an international spy teamed up with Matron Helena Bertinelli, Dick Grayson lives the life of a secret agent ably written by Tim Seeley and ex-CIA agent Tom King. But more than anything, this is Dick at peak sexy with Seeley’s humor, King’s know-how, and Mikel Janin’s extraordinarily gorgeous rendering. We finally know Dick and it feels so good.
“What’s most outstanding to me about this run, and what everyone has been remarking on, is how unapologetic it is about being a beefcake comic—the androphilic gaze in Grayson is nothing short of legendary.”
9. BATMAN AND ROBIN
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Patrick Gleason and Mick Grey
Prior to the New 52, Damian Wayne had only spent moments with his father Bruce, and partnered with Dick Grayson during the time the Batman was lost in time post-Final Crisis. So, all of a sudden, we have father and son — neither who know much about being either — having to be the ultimate partners, a dynamic duo. Month after month, Tomasi and Gleason evolved Bruce and Damian’s relationship, with many bumps and setbacks along the way, until they finally break through. And then Robin dies. What happens next is even more emotional. If you’ve never cried over a comic before, these books will bring tears to your eyes. Guaranteed.
“Tomasi’s Damian is a boy who has always been told he was great but never loved, trying to live up to his mother and father’s impossible standards, and trying to overcome his own impatience and bloodlust to prove himself a hero.”
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado
If the New 52 accomplished anything, it absolutely produced a platform for Aquaman to shine. Under Geoff Johns’ pen and with the exquisite rendering of artists Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, the King of the Seven Seas went from B-list hero to A-list film star — and it all started here. With a fresh take on Atlantis and the denizens of the deep, Aquaman showed us the majesty and horror of Sea King’s underwater world like never before. But none of it is more important than Arthur’s relationship to his queen Mera. Johns’ natural characterization and devotion to capturing the root of classic super-heroes is on display here as it always has been. And Atlantis comes above water, as it does in the Justice League crossover event Throne of Atlantis… watch out. Because this is a nation of people who can do a whole lot more than just talk to fish.
“This is his turf, his people, and his war, and Johns lets Arthur shine. The might of Atlantis, and of their King, is on full display throughout this collection and Johns does an excellent job of conveying the Atlantean people as being mighty, to say the least.”
7. HARLEY QUINN
Written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Art by Chad Hardin and Alex Sinclair
If Aquaman was the hero benefited most by the New 52, Harley Quinn is definitely the villain who got the same treatment with her early membership in the Suicide Squad. But with Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti taking the reins of a solo title, everything changed. No longer the Joker’s sidekick, Harley took back her own life and now has a thriving supporting cast and new reason to be. And it’s not going to be in service to anyone who mistreats her again. With a monthly, a mini, a bi-monthly, and specials coming out of her ying-yang, Harley has become one of DC Comics’ most recognizable figures, not to mention their highest-profile queer character. And did we mention how damn funny and endearing the book is?
“Underneath the embrace of a neo-burlesque aesthetic and darkly satirical humor central to the title’s success, Conner and Palmiotti have been rewriting Harley’s relationship with The Joker with this collision as the eventual end goal since their first issue.”
6. GOTHAM ACADEMY
Written by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher
Art by Karl Kerschl, Serge Lapointe, and Msassyk
Mix one part Batman: the Animated Series and one part Scooby Doo Mysteries — with a dash of Hogwarts school — and what do you get? The brilliant all-ages series Gotham Academy. As all newly created characters attend a school populated by some faintly familiar faces (that is, if you were on the same Bat-time, same Bat-channel as me as a kid), Olive Silverlock, Maps Mizoguchi, Pomeline Fitch, and others are out to solve the mysteries that surround these hallowed halls in Gotham City. But as if the Academy didn’t have enough secrets, Olive is full of them herself, leaving all the other students scrambled to her side to help her out. Fletcher, Cloonan, and Kerschl have created something really special in these kids and these pages that’s super sharable (and maybe a lot squeeable).
“There is literally something for every type of reader. Gotham Academy is all-ages, and can be enjoyed by kids and people that have been reading for thirty years. The book appeals to the casual reader with engaging, unique characters, and eye catching art. The hardcore superhero fanatic will love the deep connection to Batman’s history, and the creators’ true love of the mythos.”
Continue on for the top five of the last five years from DC Comics’ New 52!