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The best few of DC's new 52

By Russell Axon
On January 19, 2012

The start of a new year is always a good opportunity to, well, start something new.

Seeing as this may be humanity's last year of existence - thanks a lot, Mayans - now is the best time to read more exciting stories, view more beautiful art, or do both. Now is a great time for the new comic book reader.

Back in September 2011, DC Comics essentially restarted their entire universe with 52 issues from star creative teams. The goal was to erase the often confusing continuity that existed at the time and redefine classic characters, such as Superman and Batman, for a modern age, primarily in an effort to attract new readers.

Throughout this month, many of these books will be concluding their opening story arcs, allowing readers to separate the crap from the gold. In an effort to answer the curious and encourage the hesitant, here is a list, in no particular order, of what I think are the five best books for new readers from DC's new 52.

"Aquaman" by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis. No character has better benefited from DC's reboot than the Prince of Atlantis. For many years, Aquaman was the joke of the superhero community despite attempts to toughen his image in the 90's. Readers simply couldn't get past his apparent silliness.

In the course of one issue, Johns and Reis made Aquaman relatable, interesting and bad-ass. The first arc follows Aquaman as he faces a threat from the deepest part of the ocean. Johns' writing is action-packed but succeeds primarily in its quieter moments, which focus on Aquaman's childhood and his developing role in the surface world. Reis does a fantastic job with the action and scenery, and his facial expressions are incredibly emotional and detailed. The love these two have for the character is infectious.

"Wonder Woman" by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. For readers who enjoy mythology, Azzarello and Chiang tell an epic Greek tragedy in the pages of this book and it's amazing. The opening arc is packed with betrayal, war, love, death, magic and Wonder Woman fighting centaurs.

Azzarello is currently labeled one of the best writers in the comic book industry, and his work here justifies that title. His Wonder Woman is aggressive, strong, intelligent and courageous, yet still vulnerable, making for a complex character. The supporting cast features contemporary interpretations of the Greek pantheon, which are just as compelling.

Chiang's smooth lines, kinetic action and brilliant panel work make for a gorgeous, dynamic book that few others can match.

"Animal Man" by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman. Animal Man has a great tradition of going on some weird adventures, something Lemire and Foreman thankfully continued in their opening arc.

An undeservedly obscure hero, Animal Man has the power to wield the attributes and abilities of virtually any member of the animal kingdom. When the source of his power comes under attack, it's up to him and his similarly-powered daughter to save it.

For Lemire, Animal Man is a family man first. Lemire capitalizes on the family dynamics and exposes readers to an aspect of the superhero life that often goes unseen in DC comics.

This isn't a family book, however; Lemire's plot is terrifying and creepy. Those tones are expertly captured by Foreman's sketchy, fluidic style which can effortlessly jump from beautiful to grotesque, while always remaining oddly engaging. This is an oddball book, which is a great compliment to its team.

"All-Star Western" by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Moritat. For readers wanting something outside the superhero genre, this book provides an intriguing, entertaining alternative.

Co-written by Gray and Palmiotti, "Western" follows infamous bounty hunter Jonah Hex into a budding yet dangerous Gotham City already plagued by corruption and murder. The co-writers have an unmatched understanding of Hex's anti-hero, amoral attitude. The character functions as a black-or-white cure for the city's gray virus, often with violent results.

Moritat depicts the violence and tension perfectly. His late 19th century Gotham is gritty, dirty and dark, a reflection of its malevolent and beleaguered citizens. Additionally, each issue contains a back-up short story featuring one of Hex's wild west supporting characters.

"Justice League" by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. This is the big one. This is the $500 million blockbuster that only comics can do. This is everything and the kitchen sink and the neighbor's kitchen sink. This is a superhero book having fun, pure and simple. When a galactic force threatens the entire planet, only Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, the Flash and Cyborg can stop it.

Credit again goes to Johns for his flawless ability to handle plot, characterization and action without missing a beat. Lee, a comic book legend for his work on X-Men and the WildStorm universe, creates the most exciting visuals possible, cramming each page with intense, detailed action.

This is the story of how the DC Universe begins, making it the perfect jumping on point for anyone looking to start comics.12

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