We live in the era of the relaunch. Whether it’s a line wide relaunch, such as DC Rebirth, or the current craze by Marvel to have volumes for their books and relaunch them yearly or in some cases twice a year (again a big thanks to Secret Wars for that one). Yet in 2016 we were lucky to experience a wave of relaunched properties that we had not seen in comics for some time. So as I was wrapping up my year in comics I decided to list some of my favorite relaunches that I enjoyed in the past and now again in the present. I didn’t want to rank them since I find that to subjective and I have a hard time narrowing down what makes a book better then another. And before everyone cries foul, yes some of these books started in late 2015 but I am continually two to three months behind on my read pile so I didn’t experience these books until 2016 so I’m going with it.
I absolutely loved Doctor Strange in the ‘80s. I read the Roger Stern run religiously and was consistently entertained. I later had a chance to go back and read the Stan Lee and Steve Ditko material as well as the Steve Englehart and Roy Thomas runs. But the ‘90s were not kind to the good Doctor and as we rolled through the ‘00s it seemed like the only Doctor Strange of note was going to be the Oath but then Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo blew me away with their current run. This iteration of Doctor Strange has been consistently great. Aaron has added depth to the character not seen in some time. He also stripped the character down a notch and today’s Doctor struggles to obtain the magic needed to be the Sorcerer Supreme. Teaming with Aaron is the great Chris Bachalo, whose artwork seems destined to draw the weird universe Doctor Strange operates in. The high concept art sucks the reader in and it is both dark and creepy as well as bold and beautiful. This is a golden age for the Doctor and I’m hoping this team stays together throughout 2017 and beyond.
Superwoman is a comic character that not only goes back decades but has also had multiple iterations over the years and numerous woman have worn the mantle. From Lois Lane dreaming she has super powers from a blood transfusion to the Crime Syndicate of America’s the Superwoman of Earth 3. Lucy Lane, sister to Lois, was most recently Superwoman during the New Krypton arc but my favorite Superwoman was Kristin Wells. You might be asking yourself who is Kristin Wells. She is the descendent of Jimmy Olsen who travels from the far future with technology that gives her super powers in the 20th Century and adventures with Superman in DC Comics Presents. I read her adventures as a kid and her costume was always a favorite. Luckily with DC Rebirth we now have a new Superwoman series brought to us by the amazing Phil Jimenez. I got giddy when I saw this book previewed as not only was it another great female lead but we were going to get Phil Jimenez art and story. I have loved his George Perez inspired artwork for years but his time with dual duties on Wonder Woman is an all time favorite as is his four-issue mini-series Tempest, where we finally see Aqualad grow up. DC Rebirth’s Superwoman has not disappointed either. The story has been enthralling with plenty of mystery and quite a few cliffhangers. I know some people felt a bit of a bait and switch with the first issue but I trust in Jimenez and am staying with this book as long as he is. I love the Lana Lang Superwoman and how she is an homage to the electric Blue & Red era of Superman. It is wonderful to see Steel again and in his classic armor. Natasha Irons is back as well and Lena Luthor is developing as a true villainess in her own right. I love this book and look forward to it every month.
Moon Girl & the Devil Dinosaur
It’s books like Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur that remind me why I love comics. This book is so much fun and wonderfully entertaining month after month. I would have never thought this comic would work but somehow Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare, and Natacha Bustos are crafting a modern masterpiece. Of course Devil Dinosaur’s roots go back to Jack Kirby, as all great things in comics often do. Kirby created Devil Dinosaur on his return to Marvel in the late ‘70s and his nine issue run on Devil Dinosaur was really a big middle finger at DC who were trying to turn his creation Kamandi into a movie without input from Kirby so he took a similar concept to Marvel and Devil Dinosaur and his ally Moon-Boy were created to try and spark their own movie franchise. I read those original books at some and like many things Kirby from this time period they were high concept but not executed that well. This is not a problem with Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur, which is enjoyable issue after issue. The ever-growing story of Lunella Lafayette, the smartest person in the Marvel Universe, is both heartwarming and hysterical. Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur has joined my short box of comics, which I hope becomes a long box over the next few years, that I am setting aside to give my 8 month old baby girl so when she is old enough to read to show her that super heroes are not all muscle bound men and that some of the worlds greatest heroes are woman, and in this case a nine year old girl. Reeder, Montclare, and Bustos are creating a wonderful comic here and deserve and should be lauded for what they’ve done with Kirby’s creation.
I’m including Detective Comics not so much for the fact that it returned to its original numbering or that it is probably the best Batman book on the market right now. Rather I am including it because the Tim Drake Robin was rightfully returned to his roots in this book. The New 52 was not kind to many of my favorite DC heroes. It was so disheartening that there was a point when I was only reading two DC books, Batman and Justice League. Thankfully DC has rectified their publishing directive and given us DC Rebirth and a return to characters that feel like the characters I have read for years. I love Dick Grayson but Tim Drake is my Robin. To me Dick Grayson is Nightwing and for most of my comic reading life Tim Drake was Robin. The past few years have been cruel to Tim. Maybe it started with Identity Crisis, a book that seemed to be created just to piss me off, with the death of his father. Or maybe it was when he took on the Red Robin identity originally created for Kingdom Come. But the last straw to me was that clusterf#@k that was New 52 Teen Titans. I no longer recognized Tim Drake and could not read that pile of garbage. But James Tynion III and has returned my Robin to me. The beauty of Tim Drake was that he was comfortable with being Robin. He had no aspirations to become Batman. He wanted to be the best Robin he could be and in Detective Comics that’s what he was. He was the super genius tech wizard who was the perfect partner to Batman. It may have been short lived but it warmed my heart and I know we haven’t seen the last of Tim and hopefully when he returns we stick with the model that has worked for over twenty-five years.
*Honorable mention here for the Rucka & Williams III Batwoman but since she is getting her own title in 2017 I will wait to see what is done with her next year.
Yes it’s nice to see my New Teen Titans back in print as it has also been to long but just like I did with Detective Comics I’m using Titans not only for the collective but because Wally West is back as the Flash. I could wax rhapsodic about the New Teen Titans for hours if given the chance and so far this book has had a nice feel for the history of the team and the familial bond they once had. But I am truly excited about the return of Wally West. The Flash is my favorite superhero. I love everything about him, from the costume to the Rogues Gallery. The science behind what he does with his powers always fascinated me and who doesn’t love a good time travel story and there are hundreds within the pages of the Flash. That being said my Flash is Wally West. I like Barry but I like Barry better dead. Crisis on Infinite Earth s#8 had a profound impact on my comic reading life and Barry’s sacrifice spurned Wally to be the greatest Flash he could be. Mark Waid defined the character with his run and Geoff Johns reinforced that greatness, which is why I was so disappointed with Flash Rebirth. It wasn’t needed as Wally was a great Flash and I didn’t feel there was a need for the return of Barry Allen. When DC Rebirth #0 was released I got misty, as I knew whom the narrator was as soon as I began reading and thankfully Dan Abnett has continued to revitalize Wally within the pages of Titans. I’m not the biggest of Brett Booth fans but I will say that his long lines lend themselves well to Flash stories and I look forward to see what these two do with Wally as a Flash.
I have not consistently read Black Panther since Christopher Priest’s run came to an end. That entire run on Black Panther was one of the most satisfying titles I have ever read. It was a long form story that lasted for years and I looked forward to it every month. I’ve loved the Black Panther character for years, from reading his introduction in the Fantastic Four, to his time in the Avengers and I even liked his short-lived series helmed by Jack Kirby. His tales in Jungle Action are some of the most under appreciated Bronze Age stories Marvel produced. But I can’t say I was a fan of the recent volumes of Black Panther. I just couldn’t get into them after the Priest run. That is until Marvel gave the book to Ta-Nehisi Coates. The current Black Panther book satisfies everything I want from a Black Panther title. It has high adventure, social commentary, political intrigue, and it is evolving the character. With the much-anticipated Black Panther movie entering production soon I am excited for what Mr. Coates has in store for us. If it is as good as what has already come then I will be a very happy man.
*On a side note, Black Panther’s team book The Ultimates has also been an incredible book and The Ultimates 2 has started out as a great new volume going into 2017.
The real Superman has returned and he’s a family man. Superman is a hard character to get right. What made him so spectacular in the ‘40s made him hokie in the later part of the 20th Century and by the 21st Century the man of the future was dated. So what did DC do? They scrubbed his entire history and started anew with the New 52 Superman who was kind of a dick and never really worked. Seems they didn’t need a new Superman, they just needed the right creators. Enter Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason who brought back the pre New 52 Superman and revitalized the title with their A list talent. I’m not sure if it’s the jaw dropping artwork or the compelling stories but the past few months have been some of the finest Superman stories told in some time. I’m not sure if it’s the high adventure, weird locales, or the fact that Superman is now a family man who is not only dealing with world ending events but also making sure he brings his son up right. As a father of two who came to fatherhood in my late thirties I grasp with making sure I’m doing right by my children as well as doing everything else life throws at me. Clark and Lois seem to be in a similar situation yet I couldn’t imagine throwing in a trip to a Monster Island or a bat cave on the moon into my daily schedule as well. For a man who can defy gravity this feels like the most grounded Superman I have ever read and it is nice to have him back.
Power Man & Iron Fist
Sweet Christmas did we need this book back. We’ve had Luke Cage books and Iron Fist books over the years but the world is just a better place with a Power Man & Iron Fist book on the stands. The original series was at one time the most enjoyable book Marvel was publishing in the ‘80s. It was the most unlikely combination of characters to ever see print but it worked. Luke and Danny’s friendship felt real and it evolved over the course of the book. Their villains were often ridiculous but still dangerous. It was a sad day when the comic ended, especially as it seemed Danny was dead. Luckily in comics that rarely matters and over the years we’ve seen a return of these two to their classic form and it has culminated in David F. Walker and Sanford Greene’s Power Man & Iron Fist. The friendship is back and Heroes for Hire is open for business once again. You can tell David F. Walker has an appreciation to the history of the comic. Sanford Greene’s artwork is such a departure of what has come before but blows it all out of the water. Power Man & Iron Fist is one of the best things Marvel is publishing and with the recent success of Luke Cage on Netflix and their upcoming season of Iron Fist I’m hoping this team will be allowed to stay together and shepherd these two through what should be one of their finest hours in pop culture.
Ok, maybe I didn’t rank them but I did save the best for last.
Hopefully 2017 continues to be a bright one for comics and as I sit down at this time next year I’m hoping some of the books I mentioned are still stellar and that there are new relaunches that have rediscovered older properties and brought them back to excellence. Now just give me a Fourth World book worth a damn and a Captain Marvel/Shazam I will be happy beyond belief.