DC Comics puts out a load of great comics, but it can be really hard to figure out which ones fit your tastes or feature the heroes you care to read about. But don’t worry about that, we’ve got you covered. Check out the following list of our favourite DC books to learn what the stories are about, why they’re worth reading, and where to begin. With each book title there is the ideal starting point – where the best stuff starts – and the most current point on which you can start reading (‘Jump on now’) – this is where the current story lines began.
With DC’s relaunch initiative, The New 52, now is the perfect time for new readers to jump on board. DC reset all continuity and started up 52 titles with all new #1s. Whether you’re a DC reader or not, let us know your top picks in the comments below. Without further ado, let us start this list with everyone’s favourite Emerald Archer.
What it’s about: Oliver Queen is the archetypal spoilt son of billionaire Robert Queen, the founder and CEO of Queen Industries. However, when Oliver is stranded on a remote island for five years he is forced to endure torture, starvation and a whole host of other hostile situations. After being rescued and returning to his home city of Seattle, Oliver takes up the mantle of Green Arrow – a green-hooded vigilante who is dexterous with a bow and an assortment of trick arrows, courtesy of his support staff.
That is the basic summary for the New 52 take on Green Arrow. However, once Jeff Lemire took over the book from #17 he stripped Oliver down and forced him into the hero he needed to become. Every aspect of the character that the previous writers relied upon was forcefully removed; gone was Oliver’s branch of Queen Industries (Q-Core), gone was his arsenal for Green Arrow and his countless storage facilities, even Oliver’s self-professed guardian and often perceived business rival Walter Emerson. And it only took one man to wreak all this: Simon Lacroix, aka Komodo, none other than Robert Queen’s old business associate and close friend.
Why it’s awesome: Lemire still hasn’t taken his foot off the accelerator and we constantly experience Oliver being forced through confrontation after confrontation. The intricately woven, overarching storyline repeatedly brings countless shocking reveals (the end of #29 is the best yet).
What is so great about Lemire’s run on Green Arrow is the fact that #17 is effectively #1. It is the perfect jumping on point; in fact every new reader should start here. From #1 through#16, Green Arrow was a terrible book and I was about to drop the book from my pull-list just before Lemire took over. Now, Green Arrow, in my opinion, is easily the best book being published by DC each month.
Where to start: Green Arrow Vol. 4 by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino
Jump on now: Green Arrow #26 by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino
What’s it about: Dr. Harleen Quinzel was a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum where she took a particular fancy to the infamous Batman villain, the Joker. Ultimately, Harleen fell in love with the Joker, leading her to assist the villain in breaking out of Arkham and starting a long and illustrious career as his partner in crime: Harleen adopted the persona of Harley Quinn for her villainous activities.
In this series, Amanda Conner and Jim Palmiotti have taken Harley away from the Joker, Batman and Gotham as a whole. This has given her room to grow as her own character instead of just being the girlfriend of the Joker. The revamped Harley inherits a building, and becoming the building manager. Harley adopts a whole host of little pets, once again becomes Dr. Harleen Quinzel in order to earn an honest living, and joins a roller derby team to earn some more dishonest money. However, Harley hasn’t been able to leave her past behind as a price has been put on her head, and consequentially each issue finds Harley crossing paths with another assassin out to claim their hit money.
Why it’s awesome: Harley Quinn has always deserved her own series; ever since her debut on Batman: The Animated Series, her popularity has increased exponentially. She is such an eccentric character and yet so easy to sympathise with: she has devoted her time, life and career to the Joker, yet he has always mistreated her. This series allows us to see the best side of Harley. We get to see how she lives away from her puddin’ Mistah J, and the book never fails to make you laugh. Of course, her history in Gotham cannot just be put aside – in fact, Conner and Palmiotti seamlessly fit in cameos from other popular character such as Poison Ivy and it is brilliant to read the interactions between these characters and Harley outside of the Gotham environment. This book has been nothing but fun since the beginning. Conner and Palmiotti have done an absolute stellar job with the character so far, and what’s even more amazing is the fact that it is only on #4, so any new reader can easily jump in and be a part of the fun.
Where to start: Harley Quinn #1 by Amanda Conner and Jim Palmiotti
Injustice: Gods Among Us
What’s it about: The Injustice comic acts as a prelude to the Injustice: Gods Among Us videogame, showing just how the DC Universe got messed up. It all begins with the Joker, through the use of Kryptonite and the Scarecrow’s fear gas, tricking Superman into killing his beloved Lois Lane – who also happened to be carrying his child at the time. This drives the Man of Steel mad, sending him on a violent quest for revenge. But is doesn’t end there. He is bolstered by Wonder Woman in his resolve to end all wars and lock away criminals in a place that is a lot more secure than Arkham Asylum. It sounds like a honourable ambition, but Batman and a few other heroes see that it is quickly turning into a dictatorship, so they stand up to him. Or at least, they try to.
Why it’s awesome: It’s like watching the Titanic sink. It’s happening slowly but surely, and you can’t help but look away. Tom Taylor takes his time building up the world of Injustice so that you feel comfortable with its characters, before putting them through hell. He’s got an incredible gift with dialogue as, despite the darkness descending on the heroes, he’ll still manage to make you laugh. This is an alternate universe, so he is allowed to establish and push relationships that wouldn’t normally, and often shouldn’t, exist; like Harley Quinn and Green Arrow. As bizarre and unfathomable as that may sound once you have seen their first scene together you will be completely invested in both characters.
Injustice has just finished its first year, and now Year Two has begun. Year Two will feature the conflict growing beyond just Earth, which means we’ll see the Green Lantern Corps get involved, as well as their signature nemesis, Sinestro.
Where to start: Injustice: Gods Among Us Volume 1 by Tom Taylor and various
Jump on now: Injustice: Year Two #1 by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo
What it’s about: Buddy Baker is a superhero turned movie star turned family man who just wants to leave all that behind. But as the Avatar to the Red with the power to channel the ability of any animal, those who granted him his powers won’t let him ignore the rise of evil villain the Rot. When Buddy realises that the Rot’s bloated corpse soldiers are after his daughter Maxine, it becomes a personal affair he can’t ignore.
That was the start of Jeff Lemire’s run on Animal Man. Currently, after dealing with the Rot as well as more than a little family tragedy, he’s been swept across the universe by an alien entity that needs her own champion of the Red.
Jeff Lemire is bringing his run on Animal Man, and the book itself, to an end with this month’s #29. This isn’t because DC cancelled the book, rather that Lemire realised he had completed the story that he had set out to tell with Buddy and felt it was time to put him into a new dynamic; bringing him across to Lemire’s new book, Justice League United, which launches with next month’s #0.
Why it’s awesome: The emphasis on family. Don’t get me wrong, Animal Man is horrifying, especially thanks to Travel Foreman and Steve Pugh’s visceral art, but it’s the focus on the dynamics of Buddy’s family that makes this book so endearing to read. His wife just wants a normal life, his son Cliff idolises his superhero dad, and Maxine is so young that she just wants to use her budding powers to make everything alright so she can play with Socks the talking cat. Lemire makes you care for them like they were your own, which makes it all the more frightening when nasty Rot creatures try to eat them alive.
Where to start: Animal Man Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman
Jump on now: Animal Man #26 by Jeff Lemire and Cully Hamner
What it’s about: When an alien threat occurs throughout the world it will take more than one hero to defeat it. Geoff John’s run on the infamous Justice League team takes readers back to the very beginning, a time where heroes believed they were on their own, or simply heard rumours of others like them. However, when Darkseid sets his sights on Earth, the planet’s mightiest heroes cross paths for the first time; Green Lantern interrupts a pursuit orchestrated by the mythic Batman, they then take their suspicions to Superman, and so on. With each issue in the first arc a new member of the team is introduced into the fold, and every initial interaction is as funny as the one before it.
Why it’s awesome: Superman. Batman. Flash. Green Lantern. Aquaman. Wonder Woman. Cyborg. Need I say more? One of the greatest strengths of this series is that it is a team book. This means that the focus of the narrative is divided amongst each member of the team. Flash and Green Lantern’s relationship is perhaps the most entertaining of the group; it becomes immediately apparent that the heroes had met each other prior to Darkseid’s invasion, and as such they have an immediately intimate friendship. Whether it is Hal accidentally revealing Barry’s identity to the rest of the group on their first meeting, or both heroes calling ”dibs” when they first see Wonder Woman, it is great to see these two versions of the heroes in this book.
One thing that goes without saying with this book is the art. Jim Lee has done a beautiful job illustrating every issue; from gorgeous double spreads, to his intricate layouts of panels, every page brings a sense of awe at the intensity of the artwork. There is a good reason behind Lee’s success as an artist.
Where to start: Justice League Vol. 1 by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee
Jump on now: Justice League #24 by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis
Justice League 3000
What’s it about: In the 31st Century, humanity has spread its influence across the stars and in an age where heroes are sorely needed, the Justice League is reincarnated for peacekeeping across space. Project Cadmus, a genetic engineering corporation, had held the genetic material of the greatest past Justice League heroes for over a millennium and Wonder Twins (Teri and Terry) used those samples to recreate Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, Wonder Woman, and The Flash. Using advanced bio-engineering, the duo enabled the creation and survival of duplicates of the five great legends, but with only fragments of their memories, experiences, heroic mentalities, and powers; Justice League 3000 is a new team of unrefined and undisciplined heroes. However, in their desperate attempt to contain a growing intergalactic threat, Cadmus presses on with their Justice League 3000 experiment with the objective of restoring interstellar order.
Why it’s awesome: Some of the “gaps” in the team members’ powers have proven interesting. The Flash does not have his “antifriction aura,” and requires an artificial one to prevent incineration. Green Lantern doesn’t have a ring, instead using a “cloak” that “simulates” a Green Lantern power ring’s attributes, and Superman has neither heat vision nor flight capabilities.
One great aspect of this book is the character design by Howard Porter. The Flash’s costume is my favourite, the goggles, the neckerchief with the lightning bolt, and the hair that the twins couldn’t get right make for an interesting take on the character. Green Lantern is another great take: in casual dress he looks exactly like Hal, but when he puts on his Power Cloak a layer of mystery and intrigue is added to the character, and creates a striking image.
Where to start: Justice League 3000 #1 by J.M. DeMatteis, Keith Giffen and Howard Porter.
What’s it about: Arthur Curry is the half-human son of Tom Curry and his Atlantean lover Atlanna. The New 52 series incarnation of Aquaman sees the character return to Amnesty Bay along with Mera, his lover – who also happens to be the Atlantean Queen. Arthur is greatly distressed by the harsh treatment given to the oceans during his time as ruler of Atlantis, and so Aquaman decides to abdicate the Atlantean throne and return to full-time heroics. However, he now struggles with his lack of reputation with the greater public, which views him as a lesser hero with less impressive powers than those of his peers.
Why it’s awesome: For years Aquaman has been the butt of every superhero joke around. Unfortunately it can be said that this was deserved after the handling the hero received from DC. However, with the New 52 re-launching the character and acclaimed writer Geoff Johns at the helm, Aquaman has since become one of the most popular and strongly written characters in DC’s catalogue.
Johns does a great job at turning Aquaman’s misfortunes and dreadful reputation around. Ironically it was this very reputation, and all of the jokes surrounding it, that proved integral to his turnaround in fortunes. Johns portrays Amnesty Bay’s citizens as a reflection of our own society; misunderstanding his abilities, believing them to be inferior to other heroes such as Superman or Green Lantern, and a constant series of fish jokes. After several displays of Aquaman’s powers and heroics, society begins to change their perception of the Atlantean hero, and Johns’ writing is nothing short of brilliant. Aquaman’s ‘The Others’ arc is still one of the strongest and most popular stories in Johns’ run on Aquaman. There’s a good reason why in one month Aquaman outsold all of the titles in Marvel’s catalogue. Aquaman is brilliant and no longer deserves to be at the butt of your jokes.
Where to start: Aquaman Vol.1 by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado
Jump on now: Aquaman #26 by Jeff Parker, Sean Parsons and Paul Pelletier
Aquaman and the Others
What’s it about: The Others are a team of super powered individuals who were led by Aquaman prior to the character becoming one of the founding members of the Justice League. Each member of The Others possess a unique golden Atlantean Artifact from which they acquire their abilities. Ya’Wara is the chosen Jaguar goddess of the Amazon and has the ability to control feral cats. She wields the Atlantean Globe which grants her the power to teleport herself or whomever she desires to any location. Prisoner of War is a victim of war who gained powers from the deaths of his comrades, consequentially hiding his face because of it, and wields the Atlantean Manacles which grants Prisoner the ability to create force fields. The Operative possesses the Atlantean Key which allows him to unlock any vessel that is sealed, whilst Skye Alchesay, a young Shaman from Arizona, was chosen by Kahina to replace herself on the team and subsequently wields the Seal of Clarity which grants the user the ability to translate any language into one the user can decipher.
Why it’s awesome: Aquaman has evolved from being the most ridiculed member of the Justice League to becoming one of the most popular. This has allowed the character, for the first time in his entire history, to headline not one but two monthly titles at the same time. Geoff Johns created this team with his second arc on the New 52 Aquaman title and they immediately became a huge hit. Each character has a unique background and range of abilities and it is a genuine surprise that so many conflicting personalities are able to work together. Dan Jurgens has just published the first issue this month, so now is the perfect time to jump on this title.
Where to start: Aquaman Vol. 2 by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis
Jump on now: Aquaman and the Others #1 by Dan Jurgens and Lan Medina
What’s it about: Barry Allen is a forensic analyst for Central City’s Police Department. When a freak lightning strike infuses a chemical mixture with Barry’s DNA he wakes to find he has the ability to run really, really fast. As Barry begins to adapt to his new form powers and push himself further he discovers that he can do more than just run at super speeds: he can tap into an energy known as the Speed Force which allows him to literally travel through time and space. Barry is also able to vibrate his molecules at such a speed that he is able to pass through solid objects.
Why it’s awesome: Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato take an immensely visual approach to their storytelling, and this results in a breathtakingly beautiful book. Every time we see Barry blur through the streets you will find yourself in awe at how incredible the artwork is. Manapul and Buccellato collaborated for a long time on this book and it made for a long, detailed and incredible story thread. From the beginning of their run to the end, Barry was put through his paces as he was pitted against talking gorillas, criminals with remarkably strong moral compasses, and a time-travelling psychopath. What’s more, Manapul and Buccellato’s run on The Flash is a great time for readers new to the character to jump on in preparation for the impending TV adaptation being produced by CW.
Where to start: The Flash Vol.1 by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Jump on now: The Flash #30 by Robert Venditti, Van Jensen, Norm Rapmund and Brett Booth
What’s it about: Iconic villains such as Harley Quinn, Deadshot and King Shark have been sentenced for life but are given a chance to slowly reduce their sentence by embarking on missions with an alarmingly high mortality rate. This book is centred around the villains’ viewpoint and provides the readers a glimpse into the life of the antagonists.
Why it’s awesome: Although the premise of the book may sound repetitive – villains go on suicidal missions, some of the team members may be killed off, surviving members have their sentences reduced – but that really isn’t the case. From the get-go Suicide Squad is a fast-paced, high-octane thrill-ride which never fails to astound and shock readers with riveting story arcs and unbelievable plot twists. This title very much keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Where to start: Suicide Squad Vol.1 by Adam Glass, Federico Dallocchio an Clayton Henry
Jump on now: Suicide Squad #20 by Ales Kot and Patrick Zircher
What do you think to our picks? Any blaring absences? Let us know in the comments below