Curated: Uncommitted DC

This list is meant to appeal to casual fans, curious fans, or fans who just want a good tale, but do not want to get bogged down in continuity or have to wait for the next collection to see what happens. This is stuff you could easily gift for new fans, or use as an introduction to a new character for yourself.

Batman: White Knight

What you need to know: You do not have been reading any of the current titles. This is an alternate take on the Batman, one that often feels a bit like a video game in its pacing. There are sequels to this that are currently ongoing, but Batman: White Knight stands incredibly well on its own. This series feels familiar and fresh in equal measure.

Collects: Batman: White Knight 1-8

Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands

The first of a few year one/origin style tales on this list. This one is a bit unique in that the original creator has come back to do a modern retelling of his creation’s origin. It is fresh, both in story and in visuals as we follow the adventures of Jefferson Pierce, who is not exactly seen as a hero in the vein of Superman, Wonder Woman or others. Extremely satisfying storytelling.

Collects: Black Lightning Cold Dead Hands 1-6

JLA/JSA: Virtue & Vice Graphic Novel

Throughout the Silver Age and early Bronze Age, there was a tradition of yearly crossovers featuring the JLA/JSA. Now that both teams reside on the same earth, that tradition has largely been dropped. JLA/JSA Virtue & Vice takes a modern approach, giving us a big graphic novel with some fantastic storytelling. And then there are quiet moments featuring Superman and Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern that bookend this tale; comic book perfection.

Martian Manhunter: Identity TPB

Like Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, this a modern retelling of a classic character. This time the Martian Manhunter’s takes the spotlight with an origin tale possessing incredible depth and nuance, both narratively and visually. Truly one of the best stories DC has put out in recent readers, and it certainly leaves the reader wanting more, and wondering why they do not get more of these self-contained stories.

Collects: Martian Manhunter (Vol. 4) 1-12

Mister Miracle TPB

This one has been raved about by all corners of the internet, so if you are one of the few that has not read this recent epic, you should really just bow to peer pressure. In many ways, this series comes the closest to the original heart Jack Kirby’s, with some incredible modern flourishes.

Collects: Mister Miracle (Vol. 4)

Robin: Year One

Often referred to in other reviews and even on another Curated List (Dick Grayson by Chuck Dixon), but that is the instantly accessibility of this four issue Year One tale. Chuck Dixon, Scott Beatty ad Javier Pulido have easily created on the best Dick Grayson as Robin stories you will ever read. When reviewers refer to art pieces that are love letters to previous interpretations, this easily fits that mould.

Collects: Robin: Year One 1-4

Superman Unchained

Scott Snyder’s take on the Man of Steel, with Jim Lee along for the pictures. This blockbuster is surprisingly contained to just nine issues, including back up features. Even people who are not fans of Superman need to check this one out; it is well worth the read. Action packed, big storytelling and high-octane adventure.

Collects: Superman Unchained 1-9

Martian Manhunter: Identity Review

For a character that has been often described as the heart and should of the Justice League and one of the great creations of the late Golden Age*, but in the half century of so, has had scant time in a series of his own. There have been more recent attempts at giving the character the centre stage, but the fact likely remains that most likely only remember the short-lived 1990s series by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake. Martian Manhunter without a doubt, is long overdue for a more personalized story.

Enter Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo with a new twelve issue maxi series that is not only a defining moment for the Martian Manhunter of Mars, but also a handy retelling, and deeper exploration of the character’s origin story. For a character that has been around for as long as he has, his backstory, specifically his time on Mars is often overlooked in favour of telling the age-old pastiche of “stranger in a strange land”. Right off the bat, Orlando and Rossmo demonstrate that this will not be just another generic origin story, however. No, this is not the Chocco cookie loving J’Onn J’Onnz; this version we see may be younger, but he is more cynical, or perhaps a brutal realist. We learn that as a Manhunter on Mars, his morality and intentions are considerably less heroic. He is driven by his own ambitions, his own desires, and it serves as an interesting allegory to the real world.

J’Onn’s actions are not without consequence, and it takes a sacrifice of the worst imaginable to finally send our protagonist down the familiar path of the hero. Split between two framing sequences of time and location, the Martian Manhunter’s earliest days on Earth are chronicled, even as his martian past looms over him. While the super heroics are of decent fare, the multilayered story benefits more from the character interactions, the smaller moments and perhaps more in J’Onn’s loss and failures, than his successes or triumphs. For an alien, the Martian Manhunter has always been written as a very humanized character, and we forget that this was not always the case, and certainly not at first. It is not that that character is suddenly a villain or even an anti-hero, instead we are treated with a character that usually sees the world in moral absolutes, living and benefitting from decisions made very much in the grey. It takes an exceptional creative team, the likes of Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo to tell such a nuanced tale.

And one should gives considerable praise to Riley Rossmo, and not as an intentional afterthought as a stunning storyteller in his own right. DC has an incredible stable of artists working on its properties at the moment, and Rossmo is certainly on that list. His art is beautifully rendered in Martian Manhunter that reminded me, without being a comparison, to the stylistic flamboyance of Mitch Gerads. If one were to compare it to the recently reviewed Mister Miracle, one would have to admit that these two-self contained stories featuring second and third tiered characters are some of the best DC has put out in recent memory. It also goes to show just how unique and exciting the DC Universe could be, can be, wants to be but still cannot seem to find outside of these few examples.

This is one of the best interpretations of a comic book icon, equal in gravitas to Ostrander and Mandrake’s run; with time, it will hopefully be just as recognized and revered by the fandom.

*Some consider the Martian Manhunter the first Silver Age creation, but a stronger argument for The Flash and Showcase #4 as more widely recognized as the “first”.

Collects: Martian Manhunter (Volume 5) 1-12

Earth-9 Podcast – Ep27 – JLA

Jim and Mike are back with more comic chat this episode! We talk Mark Waid’s run on JLA, Batman Knight Out, other comic goodness and Jim has decided his next comic run he’s going to read and no its definitely not Batman!