The early 2000s saw a majority of the DC’s major characters go through a creative renaissance, a rebirth, if you will. This happened to coincide with the second time in my life that I gave up comic books. One did not cause the other. In fact, I’m now trying to track down a lot of material some twenty years after the fact. You see, in the early 2000s, university demanded much of my time and money. Comic books were the first luxury to go.
As a result, I’m reading a lot of new material for the first time, two decades on. This was stuff I would have loved to enjoy when it first came out, but better late than never. This list looks at some of the best from this decade. Don’t expect the likes of All-Star Superman or Batman: Hush on this list. You know me; I like to dig a bit deeper with Curated.
Batgirl: Year One
I adore the concept of Batgirl. I adore Barbara Gordon in any identity, but the majority of Batgirl stories at this time, were ones that had already been published in the Silver Age. Few modern Batgirl storylines exists prior to the New52 reboot, yet when DC published a Batgirl story during these decades, they truly rewarded the reader for their patience. Batgirl: Year One is the benchmark for future writers.
Collects: Batgirl: Year One 1-9
Batman: New Gotham Volume One
Batman was experiencing big event fatigue by the end of the 1990s. Or at least he should have been just as exhausted as his fanbase that just experienced a decade that opened with a new Robin, continued into the Knightfall Trilogy, a plague, an earthquake, being declared a no man’s land that included a year of near anarchy in a city that already doesn’t really understand the concepts of law and/or order to begin with. And this all happened within 2-3 years of Bruce’s life, according to then published timelines.
The Batman franchise as a result took a slightly slower pace at the turn of the millennia. Greg Rucka was put in charge of Detective Comics, and with a highly stylized new look by Shawn Martinbrough gave us stories that largely eschewed the psychopaths in favour of more personal, intimate stories; more police procedural, more crime boss and gangs, less guest stars from a certain asylum. This ranks as one of my favourite Batman collections.
Collects: Detective Comics (Vol. 1) 742-753
Green Arrow by Kevin Smith
Green Arrow is a niche character, and one that is often considered a carbon copy of Batman. While some of these criticisms may have been true in the Golden and Silver Age of comics, there’s a very different Oliver Queen that ran around in the 1970s to 2010s. There have been many memorable runs for this character, but for me, the respect and reverence that Kevin Smith shows makes this a modern classic.
Contains: Green Arrow (Vol. 3) 1-15
Robin: Year One
Yes, I have raved about this book already. Yes, it is already on the Curated: Dick Grayson by Chuck Dixon list, and no I don’t care. I’m going to recommend it again. And I recommend it, because it dovetails beautifully with the Batgirl: Year One collection, but you’re going to just have to find out for yourselves!
Contains: Robin: Year One 1-4
Superman: The City of Tomorrow Volume One
If you haven’t noticed a pattern by now, DC franchises entered a period of either going back to basics as with Batgirl and others on this list, or did a soft reboot button as with Batman or Green Arrow. Superman, much like Batman, fell into both camps convenient, with an infusion of new talent such as Joe Kelly, Doug Mahnke, Ed McGuinness, Mark Schultz and more. As a result, we got big action Superman but with some of the strongest characterizations not seen in some time. It appears DC is eager to get this material back into stores after a long period of being out of print. This first collection is well worth spending an afternoon over.
Contains: Action Comics (Vol 1.) 760-763, Adventures of Superman (Vol. 1) 573-576, Superman (Vol. 2) 151-154, Superman: Man of Steel (Vol. 1) 95-98 & Superman: Y2K
Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka Book One
Diana of Themyscira can be a difficult character for me to invest in. Don’t get me wrong; she is a brilliant character, but I have found few creative teams that have made me really lover her narrative. John Byrne mostly succeeded at this with his run, as did Phil Jimenez. George Perez was just okay to me, and sadly Messner-Loebs run was by my estimation… a hot mess. As a long time fan of Rucka both in comics and in his novels, I had high hopes for this run. If anyone would understand her and write her, strangely a man like Greg Rucka could.
This collection has conflict, edginess, and doses of great humour in the right places. A new role for Diana gives us brilliant new dimensions to her character. Not just a hardcore feminist icon anymore, politics have become more varied and more nuanced in the modern age. This is the first book of a run that would define an already iconic character.
Contains: Wonder Woman (Vol. 2) 195-205 & Wonder Woman: Hiketeia