East of Gotham: 5 Surprises From DC’s New 52

For the next few days, I’ll be taking a look back at the DC Relaunch now that all the #1s are out, and listing what I thought of many of the books.  We’ll begin with five that surprised me, to keep it positive.  Next column will be ten disappointments, then my ten favorite books to come out of the relaunch.  You can read my initial thoughts on the New 52 here to see how things have changed.

5. Justice League Dark by Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin  (read the full review here)

Peter Milligan is the single most hit or miss writer in comics, as far as I’m concerned.  For every Human Target or X-Statix, there’s a X-Men or Red Lanterns… and really, that last one is how this book makes the list.  Red Lanterns was a huge disappointment and had me really worried about this book, even though his Hellblazer is quite good.  Well, I was worried for nothing.  Milligan not only nails the voices of his cast, but actually makes the threat frightening on his way to a very good comic.  I mean, I’m not shocked, I knew Milligan could do it, but still.

4. Swamp Thing by Scott Snyder and Yannick Paquette (read the full review here)

I’ve never liked Swamp Thing.  Not when Alan Moore wrote him.  Not his numerous Vertigo series.  Never.  So why’d I get this?  I’ve never disliked anything I’ve read by Scott Snyder.  You can see, by the inclusion here, how that worked out.  This is genuinely great set up with enough characterization to make the mystery mean something.

3. Flash by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato (read my full review here)

Before the relaunch art came out, this would have easily been #1, but, well that art sold me on the issue and concept.  This is the first real Barry Allen story I’ve liked in my memory, and the writing is good enough that I’m only a bit bitter that Wally West no longer exists.  The full review here is my own, so I won’t go on and on about a book I already covered, but this is some of the best art around, and a more than competent story to back it up.  To see how far that’ll take you, see surprise #1.

2. Voodoo by Ron Marz and Sami Basri

After Catwoman #1 and Red Hood and the Outlaws #1, I was expecting this to be terrible. Hell, I wasn’t even planing on buying it, but I really did like Wildcats, so I gave it a shot.  It wasn’t great, but it was an effective horror/mystery where the sexual elements actually served the plot.  In structure, it reminded me more of Resurrection Man, by the always stellar Abnett and Lanning, than anything else.  I’m not sure how much leeway this gets if the tits keep popping out when the plot doesn’t demand it, but if it doesn’t get embarrassing, this is good storytelling.

1. Batwoman by JH Williams III and W Haden Blackman (read the full review here)

Confession time:  Greg Rucka, although extremely talented, is someone I hate in monthly format.  He writes for the trade, and I know this, but when I pick up his single issue work, it absolutely ruins the book for me.  So, of course, knowing that going in, I was suckered by great reviews into trying single issues of his Batwoman, and hated it.  Because of that, I assumed I’d still hate it without Rucka, but, well, I don’t.   Stuff actually happens this issue to make it feel like a chapter, not a waste of money, and I can now enjoy what may be the best visuals in all of comics.  Life is good.

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